Foot ferry service ends Friday

Washington State Ferries will officially sink its passenger-only ferry service from Bremerton to Seattle after Friday, Sept. 19, putting the Snohomish and Chinook boats up for sale.

The route carried more than 680,000 passengers last year.

Although commuters, ferry advocates and WSF personnel know the day is coming, the knowledge doesn’t make the parting any easier.

“I am sad about it,” said Fred Chang, chairman of the Bremerton Ferry Advisory Council. “This will be very inconvenient for people.”

Commuters who’ve long depended on the passenger boats out of Bremerton will now have to walk on to the auto-bearing boats. Total commute times across Puget Sound will increase by about 40 minutes a day, or by 20 minutes one way, as a result.

“There’s not going to be as much flexibility or as many options now,” said Dick French, a Manchester resident and long-time Bremerton foot-ferry user. “If a boat breaks down now, we could be stuck.”

French said that not only will his trip time across the sound lengthen, he will get home to his family a half-an-hour later every day, and his morning commute will be a little more hectic.

He takes a foot ferry from Port Orchard to Bremerton every morning and, after this Sunday, he will have less time to move from the Port Orchard boat to the Bremerton ferry.

WSF designed its new fall service schedule, set to begin Sept. 21, in an effort to accommodate former passenger-ferry commuters and continue the support of auto passengers.

For starters, auto ferries will cross from Seattle to Bremerton 14 times each way beginning this Sunday.

The first ferry will leave Bremerton at 4:50 a.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, the first ferry leaving Bremerton will depart at 6:20 a.m.

The last ferry from Seattle to Bremerton will leave Seattle at 12:50 a.m., seven mornings every week.

But how these changes will truly affect commuters such as French remains to be seen, although some have already weighed in.

“It’s like having the weekend schedule all week long,” Chang said. “The scheduled sailings are far apart, in some cases every hour-and-a-half.”

WSF officials aren’t particularly happy about the changes, either.

“I wish people in Bremerton didn’t have to pay such a price,” said Patricia Patterson, a WSF spokeswoman. “If there is a message I would like to impart, it would be a really sincere ‘thank you’ to these folks who have had to endure more than many would. It hasn’t always been easy, and we recognize that.”

Patterson was referring to the slowing of passenger-only ferries in Rich Passage as part of an agreement between WSF and the property owners who live along the passage.

“The steps we have taken, such as schedule changes and service changes, and with the elimination of passenger-only ferry service, what we are really doing is setting the stage for longer term viability of the entire ferry system,” Patterson said.

“And as most people know, Kitsap Transit is running a very aggressive campaign to make passenger-only ferry service again a part of Bremerton, and that’s a positive sign.”

On Nov. 4, Kitsap voters will be asked whether they want Kitsap Transit to run passenger-only boats by next year from Bremerton, Southworth and Kingston. They will also be asked whether to increase sales taxes by three-tenths of 1 percent and the motor vehicle excise tax by three-tenths of 1 percent to support the Kitsap-Transit passenger ferry service.

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