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SoundRunner is doing better, but still struggling

KINGSTON — While the SoundRunner passenger ferry service is growing in ridership, buoying the Port of Kingston’s goal to continue the service, port commissioners will still need to allocate $90,000 to run the service through Sept. 30.

Port staff reviewed SoundRunner’s finances and benchmarks for the public Monday. Ridership increased by an average of six more riders in the morning and five in the evening, to 31 and 45 riders, respectively. Kori Henry, port manager and executive director of SoundRunner, reported the recovery rate has grown by 10 percent in the last month.

Henry said recovery rate is “the amount of money you bring in, the percentage of expenses that are covered by your income.” The port’s recovery rate goal is 30 percent.

In April, port commissioners agreed to fund the service through Sept. 30 and allocated $800,000 in port funds. The service costs an average of $50,000 per month to operate the service. The majority of riders are commuters.

SoundRunner is a case study of sorts — a ferry service funded by its small revenue, port resources, and a few grants. Commissioner Walt Elliott said the goal is to create a Kitsap ferry district to provide a sustainable funding source for non-Washington State Ferries services. Kitsap Transit recently launched its own passenger-only ferry, Rich Passage, between Bremerton and Seattle.

“Our success is important to [the] Rich Passage investment,” Elliott said. “We have a lot of people on our side.”

The port has also been meeting with state Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge. If SoundRunner can show an increase in consistent commuter service, Rolfes said she will work to allocate state transportation funding to the port for SoundRunner.

Port commissioners also said they are looking for business sponsorships of the boat, which Commissioner Pete DeBoer likened to the relationship between the Seattle Mariners and Safeco Field. DeBoer said the port has a few businesses interested in full sponsorship of the boat.

Henry said advertising will help offset the costs and give the port more time to meet its ridership goals.

“It may not seem like a lot,” Henry said of the bump in ridership, “but we’re finally meeting some benchmarks.”

Either way, commissioners said they will need to make a decision at their August review meeting — whether funding sources will allow them to offer seasonal service from April to September, or shut the service down completely.

 

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