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Kitsap Transit seeks passenger only ferry plan

A passenger awaits the arrival of the Carlisle II in Bremerton Tuesday afternoon. Kitsap Transit is looking to expand passenger only ferry service and will hire a consultant to help. - Kevan Moore/staff photo
A passenger awaits the arrival of the Carlisle II in Bremerton Tuesday afternoon. Kitsap Transit is looking to expand passenger only ferry service and will hire a consultant to help.
— image credit: Kevan Moore/staff photo

Kitsap Transit is putting out a request for proposals this week in hopes of hiring a consultant to develop a long-range plan for cross Sound passenger only ferry service.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson says that bids should come back by March 19 and will then be reviewed by a special committee. He said he hopes to see a final report by the end of August. The agency is poised to spend up to $300,000 for the plan.

The request for proposals comes at a time when the state Legislature is considering a pair of bills that would allow for the creation of special ferry districts in counties with less than 1 million people that could establish up to a three-tenths of one percent sales tax. When the bills were first introduced, the taxing rate was set at six-tenths of one percent.

Two prior efforts to create a ferry district have failed in Kitsap County. The first attempt failed in 2003 with 61.3 of voters saying “no.” A second effort to create a ferry district in 2007 was rejected by 54.5 percent of voters. The new legislation, though, would allow for the creation of smaller, more targeted districts where passenger ferries would presumably be more popular.

At least one member of the Kitsap Transit board, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, remained skeptical.

“It’s no secret that I have not been a supporter of passenger only ferries because they are way too expensive for the amount of customers they serve,” Erickson said. “If Bremerton, Port Orchard and South Kitsap wanna move forward, that’s great.”

Erickson said that the creation of ferry tax districts could affect some purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to big ticket items like cars and homes.

“I’m extremely torn,” she said. “Folks in South Kitsap have been pushing this for years. The subsidies that are required are enormous. Where do they come from? If we do districting, there are huge portions of this county that absolutely do not support this because they don’t see a benefit.”

During a transit board meeting Tuesday in Bremerton, Clauson talked about the possibility of eventually teaming up with King County to operate a passenger only ferry system.

“We should definitely look at working with them if it makes sense,” he said. “I’ve also talked to them about operating the service for us. Would it make more sense for King County to step up and operate the service for us?”

Clauson also noted the “interesting wrinkle” that would be created if Kitsap Transit establishes three routes with three boats for each of those routes — two boats operating with one boat as backup.

“We’d assume it would be a lot larger operation than (King County’s) with the two vessels they have now,” he said.

The report will look at the feasibility of various routes, docking and maintenance facilities, environment considerations, the history of passenger only ferry service in Puget Sound and many other factors.

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