Kingston could see passenger ferry again in 2017

There could be a new passenger-only ferry in Kingston if everything falls in place for Kitsap Transit in the next few years.

KINGSTON — There could be a new passenger-only ferry in Kingston if everything falls in place for Kitsap Transit in the next few years.

A plan for the proposed ferry service between the Kitsap Peninsula and Seattle shows Kitsap Transit beginning with service in Bremerton in October 2015 and expanding to service in Kingston in the fall of 2017. Before ferry services can begin, Kitsap Transit will need to continue planning, including finding funding. The plan needs to be endorsed by Kitsap County Board of Commissioners and receive “adequate local tax support,” Kitsap Transit passenger-only ferry plan manager Carla Sawyer told the Herald in July.

Under the proposed plan presented to the Kitsap Transit Board on Sept. 26, services would include Bremerton, Kingston and Southworth. Southworth would get a ferry in 2022 or 2023. The routes would go to Pier 50 in Seattle.

Sawyer said she expects the transit board to deliberate the topic in the coming months. Launching three routes would cost the transit service about $39 million between 2015-2023, according to the Sept. 26 presentation.

Potential funding sources have been identified and include sales taxes, motor vehicle excise taxes and property taxes; the state Department of Transportation Regional Mobility Grant Program; and federal funding.

Current Kitsap Transit revenues are insufficient to support the proposed service, according to the presentation.

The proposed schedule for the three routes include three morning roundtrips and six afternoon roundtrips. Respondents of a survey indicated they would like to see the service expanded into weekday evenings, even before weekend service, Sawyer said.

The goal would be to build commuter confidence in the service, Sawyer told the Herald. If Kitsap Transit could show commuters the ferry is not a test and will be around for the long haul, it could help build ridership, she said.

Along with new passenger-only services from Kitsap to Seattle, improvements would be made at the three proposed locations. Kitsap Transit has proposed using the same dock the Port of Kingston did for its passenger-only service — the long walkway and dock located adjacent to the south side of the WSF terminal. Improvements under the plan include repairs to decking, architectural improvements to cover the walkway, signage, fresh water, and shore power. Improvements wouldn’t be “terribly costly,” Sawyer said.

Southworth’s largest hurdle is the lack of a docking facility, Sawyer said. That will make getting a service there more delayed.

For Bremerton, a ferry and facility already exists. In order to start a service there Kitsap Transit needs a way to subsidize operating costs and the crew to operate it — and approval. Pier 50 in Seattle is expected to receive improvements as well. That would include a sheltered terminal and increased capacity. The pier remodel is part of the Colman Dock project; the passenger-only facility project will receive funding from King County. A new barge is expected that can accommodate four vessels, Sawyer said.

Though things might get tight at Pier 50; in 2012, there were four passenger-only routes being run from there, Sawyer said. That took a lot of coordination between skippers, she said. King County currently operates two passenger-only ferry routes from the pier.

Though there are existing ways for Kitsap residents to make it to Seattle via ferry, commute times with passenger ferries could be the biggest benefactor. The vessels would range in speed, from 28 to 34 knots. Bremerton, for example, already has a ferry that sails directly to Seattle. A passenger-only ferry, however, would cut commute times in about half. Total crossing time from Bremerton would be about 35 minutes; from Southworth, 30 minutes; from Kingston, 40 minutes.

The proposed roundtrip cost from Bremerton and Southworth is $11, from Kingston $15.