How should you vote on the sales tax measure for Kitsap Transit’s proposed passenger-only fast ferry? It depends on what kind of community you want to live in.
Fast-ferry service between Seattle and Bremerton, Kingston and Southworth would make it easier for Kitsap residents to commute to and from the Emerald City for work and education. It would also make it easier for Seattleites to commute to and from Kitsap, making the job market here more competitive. (According to the state Employment Security Department, the jobless rate in Kitsap County in August was 5.9 percent; in King County, it was 3.9 percent.)
Fast-ferry service would open up new homeownership opportunities for Seattleites who, on average, have a little more money to spend on buying a home (the median household income in Seattle in 2015 was $75,331, compared to $62,473 for Kitsap households, according to theU.S. Census). That’s good for home sellers here. It’s also good for Seattleites; King County’s median closing price for a home is consistently the highest of 23 Washington counties in the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. In September, the median home price in King County was $494,950 and there were 1.37 months of inventory. In Kitsap, the median home price was $284,999, with 2.15 months of inventory.
The availability of more buyers would drive up the cost of homes here, putting ownership out of reach for many Kitsap residents. There would be pressure to build more homes, as well as more apartments. After the aircraft carriers Nimitz and Stennis relocated to Bremerton, rentals in the area became scarce and rents grew accordingly. For example, a two-bedroom apartment at Liberty Ridge in Poulsbo that cost $900 a month in 2012 now costs $1,455.
Proponents say the funding measure will free up $1.5 million annually for more than 23,000hours of new bus service. That’s a good thing. But there are other needs as well. “Kitsap Transit says there’s likely more than 500 unmarked stops around rural Kitsap County,” KOMO 4 News reported after a PSNS worker was struck by a car after getting off of a Kitsap Transit bus at an unmarked bus stop at Sidney Road near Wildwood Road in Bremerton. Clearly, passenger safety must be a priority. And several communities in Kitsap are inadequately served by Kitsap Transit bus service. That should be addressed.
Make sure your vote is an informed one. You can learn more about the passenger ferry plan at www.KitsapFerries.com; and at the Popcorn & Issues forum at 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at SEEFilm in downtown Bremerton. The panel discussion will feature regional transportation and economic development experts.