Port of Kingston working to save SoundRunner

KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston is pushing forward with its agenda to save the SoundRunner passenger ferry service.

First up: Meet with supportive organizations and other transit agencies to collaborate on funding.

Last week, port officials and staff members met with state Sen. Christine Rolfes, Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson, Puget Sound Regional Council planner Stephen Kiehl and Kitsap Transit Director John Clauson. It was the first step to “figure out a game plan,” Port Manager Kori Henry said.

Moseley had some reservations — SoundRunner competes with state ferries for commuters. But Henry said there are enough commuters to go around, and the goal should be reducing congestion on State Route 305. SoundRunner also targets commuters from Jefferson County cities like Port Townsend and Port Ludlow.

The officials “on this side” of Puget Sound were very supportive, Henry and Commissioner Walt Elliott said. Partnerships with Kitsap Transit and PSRC will help the port when it applies for larger grants.

And funding is what the port needs to continue. The port’s plan is two-fold: increase ridership and obtain grants, Henry said. But Elliott said implementing a countywide ferry district is a long-range goal.

“The grants are bridge loans” until the partners can come together and propose a ferry district, he said. Kitsap Transit begins a trial run on its Bremerton-Seattle passenger ferry this summer.

Until then, the port has begun a marketing blitz — creating larger signage, handing out brochures around Kingston to increase awareness, and asking local businesses for sponsorship. Former Chamber of Commerce executive director Linda Fyfe was hired as SoundRunner’s marketing director; she said the action plans are immediate.

“The commuters are the most powerful marketing tool at this point,” she said. She described SoundRunner as a “private limo to Seattle,” with free coffee and WiFi on board. “We’re looking for people who are looking to spread the word” about SoundRunner, she said.

Port commissioners approved the draft marketing plan and budget at a special meeting Monday, where many residents continued to express their reservations about the service.

“You’ve had no support from the business community” in the past, said resident Ralph Flewelling. “I think you’ve got a lot of wishing going on here.”

Commissioner Marc Bissonnette continued to state his skepticism. Bissonnette was the sole nay  vote at the April 23 meeting to continue SoundRunner service until Sept. 30.

Henry will be drafting the port’s goals in the next few weeks, to be delivered to Rolfes. She said a lot of things will shake out this summer — the port plans to sell its spare boat, the Express; ORCA fare-card  partners will hold commuter pass negotiations; the Federal Transit Authority will need to approve any schedule changes the port proposes; and $5 fares will go into effect July 1.

Commissioners agreed that continuing the service will come down to ridership.

“The way for the community to show if it wants [SoundRunner] is to ride it. The way to show it doesn’t want it is to not ride it,” Elliott said.


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