BREMERTON — Washington State Ferries’ restored service in Bremerton appears to be months away. Could Kitsap Transit help fill some of the timetable gaps with an additional fast ferry service? A gathering of officials in Kitsap makes a pitch.
The state’s Bremerton-Seattle route has been operating on a limited schedule for about a year, with only one boat assigned to the crossing. Washington State Ferries has flagged staffing shortages and reported the route is not expected to return to regular service until spring 2023.
Local officials — including the mayors of Kitsap cities, county commissioners, some of the state legislatures representing Kitsap and the executive director of Kitsap Transit — have sent a letter asking Gov. Jay Inslee to fund Kitsap Transit directly so that the Agency may improve its schedule Bremerton-Seattle Fast Ferry and is temporarily bringing some additional services to Bremerton.
catch up:Bremerton’s ferry service was cut in half a year ago. Riders are still waiting
“As part of the state’s highway system, the WSF Bremerton Marine Highway Route plays a vital role in supporting free movement of commerce and providing critical access for work, medical appointments and other essential travel,” the Sept. 16 letter said at Inslee . “We believe that the current level of WSF ferry service will not be able to support the existing needs of the Bremerton community for an extended period of time. Adding temporary passenger-only Kitsap Transit rides would increase capacity, improve access, support livelihoods and help strengthen the local economy.”
When asked about the space to provide additional service to Bremerton, Inslee spokesman Jaime Smith said in an email to Kitsap Sun: “We have discussed options to alleviate the challenges of this ferry journey and are considering whether this one it could be you.”
Kitsap Transit executive director John Clauson said his agency had worked out the details of how the Bremerton service could be ramped up, including a timeline, number of trips and cost of operating the additional service.
Clauson said the agency has been exploring the idea of adding six or seven round-trip services to its current Bremerton timetable, with some offered at noon and others later than the commuter timetable. The agency has been considering additional services on weekdays and will also look at what it could do on Saturdays, he added, noting the agency does not offer a Sunday service and would not propose to do so under this plan.
The timing would work well as the agency moves into its winter schedule and discontinues its Saturday service in the summer, which would provide some crew capacity that could be reallocated to additional Bremerton service, Clauson said.
“It seems very doable today,” he said.
Clauson stressed that the agency would only operate the additional sailings until Washington State Ferries restored a second boat on the Bremerton route.
“The idea is that Kitsap County voters voted to create the fast ferry program that we have today, they didn’t vote to essentially save Washington State or Washington State Ferries,” he said. “The idea was that if the state provided additional funding, we could see what additional services we could offer with our current staff. That’s sort of the concept. Certainly we would not be able to replace all the sailings lost by Washington State Ferries going to just one ship, but we could certainly add a level of service to what they are able to provide today.”
Nathan Pilling is a reporter covering Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, [email protected] or on Twitter at @KSNePilling.
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