The city's mayor, Kitsap Transit, and the empty condos downtown sure hope so.
This week, Kitsap Transit received the final go-ahead, to drop nearly $4 million on a 149-passenger catamaran, that officials hope will move passengers between Bremerton and Seattle in the same time it currently takes Washington State Ferries to get riders from Bainbridge downtown: 35 minutes.
In a decade, Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes has seen WSF abandon its passenger-only run to Bremerton, local voters strike down efforts to restore service, and a Starbucks go in downtown. We talked to Hayes recently about low-wake boats, late-night service, and moving people and businesses to Bremerton. Here is an excerpt from our conversation:
Kitsap County voters have said no to fast foot ferries a couple times. Why is Kitsap Transit still pursuing it?
Well, the simplest reason, is that the board continues to support it. Our recommendation and the board's support was, let's get the boat, let's do the testing that would come with the boat ... and then at that point we'll make a decision about what to do. I do think that times have changed. $4 gasoline ... changes a lot of equations. I think there will be a time that this will work. The first thing to do is get this boat.
Do you know that this boat won't make too much wake for Rich Passage?
We know it's going to create a whole lot less wake than any preceding hull. We've done a huge amount of research. We think that these hull lines will be quite a bit superior to anything else.
How long do you anticipate the trip taking?
We anticipate the trip itself takeing 25-26 minutes. (And a couple minutes loading time). We're still working on the bow-loading arrangements. A 35 minute collective trip time, that's the trip time for Bainbridge Island. We're really targeting that trip time ... so we can get the people from Silverdale, for instance, to come to Bremerton instead of Bainbridge ... and pull people off (Highway) 305.
Are you just targeting commuter runs or do you envision a full schedule?
When you're using smaller boats -- this is a 149-passenger boat -- what you're proposing is a transit-style operation, which you use two or three boats at a terminal to get the frequency. When you're in test mode, you've only got one boat. It's not going to be a full schedule.Are you open to late-night runs filling WSF gaps between the 10:30 p.m. and 12:50 a.m. boats, or even later?
Yeah, that would be in the long run. Our previous plan, and I think anybody's reasonable plan in the long run, would be to fill those gaps in.
Do you have a fare in mind?
We have a plan to test several fare levels to see what kind of revenues they generate. We know for sure from the times when WSF ran it, that you don't begin to have enough seats if you charge th same about that WSF was charging ($6.50). You really have to go somewhere up from there. We may try several different fare levels. We are counting on the fares to defray some of the costs of the testing process.
What do you see as Kitap Transit's role in the ferry business, 10 years from now?
I don't really know. I've got a feeling we might be going in concert with King County and others. I think because we have such a terrible fuel crisis ... that regionally we'll probably look at perhaps a different funding source. My goal right now is to get this boat and run it through Rich Passage. Once we prove we can get through Rich Passage, the whole community sits down and determines what we can do next.
This project's receiving money through Kitsap County Consolidated Housing Authority. So, do you expect people from Seattle to move to Bremerton?
Well, I think everybody you talk to agrees the fast ferry is an important piece Bremerton needs to encourage further development. And I actually think that's true. We're not just talking about moving people over here, we're talking about moving Bremerton into the regional economy.
I would like to have (the foot ferry) someday be part of an overall regional system of boats and buses, but we have a long way to go until we get to that point. We need this boat to work before we can take our next steps.