What foot ferry plan?

rp1The most startling finding to come out of a recent survey on Kitsap Transit’s plans for cross-Sound passenger ferry service is that most Kitsap people know nothing about it. A close second is that I’ve been wasting my time the past 10 years.

There’s no topic I’ve written more about than passenger-only ferries. Hundreds of stories. But in a May public opinion poll of a statistically valid 400 people, 56 percent said they hadn’t heard of it. If anything, I figured people were sick of reading about it.

Maybe it’s because the business plan for fast ferries running from Bremerton, Kingston and Southworth to Seattle is relatively new. It was published in December 2014. People have been busy.

Leading up to the report, however, was an 8 1/2-year, $12.7 million research project  that culminated in building and testing a high-tech catamaran that can transit Rich Passage without tearing up beaches. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents weren’t aware of the research.

Executive Director John Clauson seemed astonished.

“One of the biggest takeaways for me is we’ve got to get the word out better,” he said during a subcommittee meeting Tuesday when the results were presented. “We’ve got too many people in Kitsap County who are uninformed.”

Poll results were surprisingly positive in many regards. Though 56 percent said they didn’t know about the plan, 72 percent were interested in pursuing the service. Three out of four thought it would be good for the economy.

Under the plan, 30-minute sailings would cost about $1.50 more each way than existing walk-on options. Service would focus on commuters. A local tax increase would be needed and would probably come from local sales tax.

Respondents said the most important aspect of service is keeping on schedule, with 89 percent saying it was important or very important. Lumped behind that were a schedule that meets commuters’ needs (79%), fast crossing (78%), schedule that makes personal needs (77%) and service guided by a strong business and financial plan (77%).

Regarding costs, 69 percent said it was important or very important that more than one-third of operating costs be paid by passengers, 54 percent that taxpayers help with a sales tax of 2 cents per $10 dollar purchase, and 51 percent that fares be $1.50 more each way than current walk-on fares.

The largest drawbacks were that it would cost taxpayers too much (31% agree or strongly agree), duplicate existing services (26%), cost riders too much (22%) and not serve enough people (22%).

Seventy-eight percent said it would make it easier to get to work or school and 70 percent that it would improve their quality of life.

13 thoughts on “What foot ferry plan?

  1. I vaguely know about the potential foot ferry service through word of mouth. Commuting on the 7:20 form Bremerton and the 6:45 from Seattle Monday through Friday leaves my time to complete major stuff at home to the weekends. It makes getting to the KT Public Meetings difficult to accommodate.

  2. Ed,

    You have been doing a fine job for the last 10 years. A spectacular job in a lot of cases, ironing out the details of a system and its issues that define the words complex and hot (bleeping) mess all at the same time.

    Readers, voters, residents and pretty much anyone who pays for the ferry system but does not or rarely uses it, tunes it out. They turn it off.

    After so many years of complete screw ups with…..organization, administration, financial accountability, theft, missed shifts, cancelled boats, broken boats, overloaded boats, testy labor contracts, apathetic workers that can’t and won’t code tickets (Bremerton or Bainbridge) properly and a ton of subsidized taxpayer funding in and around the Washington State Ferry System, people just stopped listening and reading any press about it.

    Now you add in Kitsap Transit. All people in Bremerton and major parts of Kitsap see is……. NO Sunday bus service. No service back home from Olympic College for people taking night classes. Wasteful purchases of property without the property studies. A grounding of a vessel under circumstances that were extremely questionable and a Director who is unable to focus on fixing full time problems when he is splitting his time between two very demanding masters that include his Transit Directorship and Port Orchard City Councilman.

    What the majority of voters “hear”, when the word ferry is mentioned is that tourists and people fleeing Kitsap for work or pleasure are a higher priority than they are.

    By the way the questions on the survey were very framed and extremely loaded to gain the predetermined answers that were desired. The City of Bremerton does this all the time with their surveys, it is very easy to recognize at this point.

    1. Colleen – Well said. You provided a complete picture of why there is so little confidence in the prospect of passenger only ferry service.

      I am hopeful that the situation can be turned around. But I have to agree with you, there is a lot of bad feelings among those of us who had sought a reliable commute option.

      At this point, I’m retired, so not a worry for me. But I think it would be good for Bremerton’s economy if they can get that problem resolved with a reliable passenger only service route.

      Thanks again for you comments.

  3. Ed,
    Colleen is correct. KT needs to refocus on bus service. Where I live (Seabeck) we do not have it except for Access twice a day. The trimming of routed service and cancellation of Sunday routes has left a lot of the tax payers jaded and skeptical. Frankly, if it comes from a KT spokesperson, I am inclined to disbelieve it and tune it out.

  4. One reason why the word isn’t reaching everyone is that many people do not get the Sun. Which is another issue all together.

    Another consideration is the poor track record of the past in which people got their hopes up for a reliable passenger-only service…only to have it taken away.

    My understanding was that the new service didn’t go directly from Bremerton to the Coleman Dock. If that service is now in effect, that’s great news. I would suggest some TV ads as PSAs (if that’s legal).

    Personally, it’s no longer an issue as I’m now retired, but I know MANY people who said they would seriously consider moving to Bremerton if they could do so via passenger only ferry. Again, the problem is that no one wants to make that kind of commitment if the service gets pulled later.

    I know there are no guarantees, but that is the reality. Perhaps if the service continues for a year or two, people will begin making the move. It would be a tremendous boost for Bremerton’s economy. I hope that happens one day.

  5. The problem is that most Americans are too obsessed with tabloid media to pay attention to such important topics. I read your articles and attended meetings put on by Mr. Clauson on the project. I understand that at first it would be focused on commuters, even though I’d love to see a fast ferry for sporting events.

    At a recent Leadership Kitsap Challenge day we discussed the economics of Kitsap county. People who live in Kitsap and commute outside the county bring their money back home, that’s new money inserted into our economy which circulates and benefits everyone. We don’t need to run empty buses out into the sticks. I also read your recent article on ridership stats. 😉

    Short sighted leadership has stymied smart progress in Kitsap county for a generation. Decisions are either made to benefit a few “well connected” or to appease the whims of the “tabloid media” crowd who just want to find the next “gotcha” and have no concern for doing the smart thing. :-/

    We should have had fast foot ferries in Bremerton 20 years ago, not a tunnel. We should have built a bridge to Bainbridge Island and have a jumbo ferry to Seattle running every 20 minutes.

    This plan needs to be sold to folks on the island as a means of easing congestion so not everyone has to drive seven miles across the island to get off out in the sticks of Suquamish. A reliable route between Seattle and all of Kitsap county would create an economic boom in both areas, if we’re smart we’ll contain it in current urban centers that have plenty of unused space and preserve the quality of life that attracts people to our area.

    Ed, please keep up up the good work!



  6. Please keep up with this, however I have to say that I am still not aware of a plan, and I’m unable to find the plan referenced on this site in December.

    I did hear rumors late last year that passenger only service may come to Southworth, but at the time many of my friends dismissed it, as we have no reason to believe it will actually happen this time around.

    Good to continue to see stats and research, but I think we can still say “where’s the plan?”

  7. I’ve said this many times: This ferry benefits Seattle as much as Bremerton…one only has to see the foot traffic coming and going to Seattle every morning and evening to understand this fact, yet I’ll bet this survey never reached any of these commuters.

  8. Ed ,

    I don’t think your time has been wasted in writing about the Passenger Only Ferry continuing fiasco over the last decade. I have learned greatly along the way. I do think our elected officials are tone deaf to the voters even though this boondoggle has been firmly rejected by voters on ballots previously. Is the POF really worth $100 million?

    Allow me to boil down a few of the key points of the 415 pages of wordsmith in the latest report to make things easier to understand my view.

    The per capita income in Kitsap (2013 US Census) is $31,769. Ferry customers to be subsidized is 45% income 50K to 100K, and 38% above 100K (page 312 of the appendix) Appears to be a program designed to be subsidized by the average and poor in majority not riding the POF to benefit the minority better off for their convenience.

    Trip purpose was recorded as 83% frequent riders for work commute (page 314 of the appendix). Should we all as taxpayers subsidize the transportation cost for those who choose work in Seattle usually at a higher rate of pay? To me that work related commute expense should be considered as part of the acceptance of a nonlocal job rather than subsidized by others.

    Tricky wording was used to represent approval of the least popular option of a sales tax raise (page 321 of the appendix). Allow me to use the same numbers published with a little less spin and sell. 59% surveyed are unwilling to support the .3% or higher sales tax proposed by Kitsap Transit thus far and discussed at the public outreach meetings.

    Kitsap Transit’s Executive Director at the Port Orchard outreach meeting last January represented an initial required investment of $34,000,000 to launch and 6.6 million a year average to operate over the next 10 years. My basic math tells me $100 million is to be funded over time by taxpayers to benefit a very few. The numbers were presented different verbally than recorded in the report on the street however that is what we were told during the audio recorded meeting with the Executive Director.

    If Kitsap Transit’s primary targeted customers are current WSF riders wouldn’t that be taking revenue from WSF? Wouldn’t taxpayers then need to backfill the loss of revenue and subsidize WSF at a higher level? Seems we would have to subsidize two levels.

    Stakeholders – Cherry picked at best having even been chosen from within their own KT Executive Board and Advisory that are already pushing this program. What ever happened to reaching out to the counties largest employer and the largest customer of Kitsap Transit? I would think the military would be a stakeholder worth considering (page 308 of the appendix).

    All this ferry hoopla and still the poor must walk on Sunday because the KT Executive Board won’t demand that KT even put Sunday bus service back into the six year plan for reconsideration. I guess the poor just get to keep walking while the board panders to those more connected or politically savvy. The poor can’t be poor six days a week.


    1. Well the poor aren’t going to be better off unless we can attract taxpayers with higher incomes whiich translates into more tax revenue for those services. Also, more higher income people use services, shop, buy groceries, hence more jobs. The better the economy, the better off the poor are.

  9. I went to many of the same meetings Ed did regarding the passenger only ferry. I have spoke at a number of the Kitsap Transit meetings regarding the passenger only ferry and bus service. I knew a survey was in the works and this time I decided to not seek out the survey, but see if I came across it in my normal day to day routine. I did not see anything on a ferry survey. I do the the Sun delivered 4 days a week so I might have missed the big announcement about the survey. I do not go on a regular basis to the Kitsap Transit website so I did not see any survey by that method. I have given my e-mail to Kitsap Transit at many meetings and to Mr. Clauson, but I did not receive any notice of a survey.

    So how did the consultants connect with the quarter of a million people living in Kitsap County? Was the survey made not to fail by the way questions were asked and the potential answers allowed? At the last meeting I attended the discussion was on phase two of the business plan and one of the items was to “engage the community in dialogue about the plan”. If the survey showed very few new of the plan, much less the survey, what is the path now? How can you expect support when in their planning you do not even know who they are trying to engage to get support for the passenger only ferry? The bills that allow a separate ferry district that is smaller than the existing county wide public transportation district does not define the area, that is what the Kitsap Transit Board should have already done and as yet they have not made any possibilities known.

    How can the public be so uninformed about a $45,000,000 cost to taxpayers over 8 years and a $8,000,000 subsidy to keep it running? It is the publics elected officials who sponsored the bills, 23rd, 26th & 35th elected and the Mayors of Poulsbo and Bremerton, City Council of Port Orchard & Bremerton & all three county commissioners who actively supports the passenger only ferry (Mayors of Port Orchard & Poulsbo do question the idea but as in the Port Orchard Mayors case he was removed from the transit board by the Port Orchard City Council of which Mr Clauson is a member). Maybe the public needs to make their concerns known to each and every elected official in Kitsap County. Attend the county, city and Kitsap transit meetings and let the elected officials know what you think, not what the consultants create for the elected officials to hear. Make your voice heard.

  10. The plan for passenger ferry service is dubious at best. The
    sprinkling of distant quasi-promised service around the county to
    garner support is a little crafty, but the ideas and track record are
    poor. What was the subsidy last time in Kingston? It’s also cute you
    put in an arbitrary 35 minute goal to justify not adding service to 1
    ferry dock in the county that has by far the highest pedestrian

    We can’t pay for rubber tire transit on buses Kitsap Transit already
    owns on Sundays or evenings, but you want to buy and operate boats?

  11. AT $1.50 more, that would make it almost $10 to take the foot ferry over to Seattle. With gas prices what they are now, it’s still cheaper to drive around.

Comments are closed.