Survey asks community preferences for Southworth fast-ferry service

Kitsap Transit to offer Saturday service to downtown Seattle

PORT ORCHARD — Kitsap Transit is asking for public feedback prior to the start of passenger-only fast-ferry service between Southworth and downtown Seattle, which is expected to start later this year.

The agency launched fast-ferry sailings from Bremerton in 2017 and from Kingston to Seattle in 2018. The Southworth service will connect downtown Seattle at Pier 50, next to Colman Dock, and the Washington State Ferries terminal at Southworth.

Service will embark on a 250-passenger primary vessel and a backup vessel of the same capacity. Crossing time is anticipated to range between 21 and 26 minutes, depending on dock availability in Southworth and Seattle. The agency noted that the choices of departure and arrival times in Seattle are limited because the dock has just two spots serving five passenger-only ferry routes during peak commute hours.

Sanjay Bhatt, Kitsap Transit spokesman, said the survey at will gauge county residents’ commute habits in greater detail than from input received in a shorter survey in October.

“In launching the survey, we’re hoping to get even more participation from the community and more granular information as to where respondents live so that we can also look at the possibility of expanded bus service to the Southworth ferry terminal,” Bhatt said. “The plan is that they won’t have to get into their cars and drive down there.”

Kitsap Transit hasn’t announced a specific date for when service will begin this year, the spokesman said.

“Just like the service we launched in Kingston, there are many moving parts to this puzzle in getting the service launched [in Southworth],” Bhatt said.

Most notably, two 250-passenger bow loaders to serve the route are still under construction at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders on Whidbey Island. He said the agency is in discussions with Washington State Ferries to form a joint operation at the existing Southworth terminal dock. Plans also need to be finalized so improvements can be made at Southworth to allow adequate space for transit buses to drop off and pick up passengers.

“We’re also working with King County on how we’re going to orchestrate this very tight dance of ferries coming in and out of essentially two spots at the Seattle passenger-only ferry terminal,” Bhatt said.

Kitsap Transit wants to raise the option of Saturday service to and from Seattle — a bonus for car-less passengers wanting to visit downtown on the weekend. The agency said it plans to run sailings throughout the day on Saturdays during the summer.

“Some people think that the fast ferry is just for people who commute into Seattle, but all of us Kitsap County residents support the fast ferry through our sales tax,” the spokesman said. “Even if you don’t commute to work into Seattle on a regular basis, the survey is also for you to tell us about your interest level in using the fast ferry on Saturdays.”

Bhatt said the agency wants to hear from county residents about what their preferred time of departure is from Southworth in the morning and preferred time departing Seattle in the evening.

The Kitsap Transit Southworth-Seattle survey will close on Tuesday, March 31.