Ferry meeting recaps summits, issues

KINGSTON — In an effort to share more information, and continue to gain feedback from North Kitsap residents, the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee and 23rd District representatives Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) and Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) hosted a meeting Monday evening to further the flow of ferry system discussion.

Buoyed by the chance to share their views about the Washington State Ferries, a system many feel needs a drastic revamping, about a dozen residents and commuters attended the session to voice their thoughts. Everything from a complete WSF overhaul to the congestion caused by ferry traffic was brought to the table, and both state representatives said they would continue to take all comments into consideration during the upcoming legislative session.

“The whole effort is going on into the long-range planning and the 16-year plan,” Rolfes said. “We’re looking for a new methodology. The whole point of the ferry summit was so the local community could be brought up to speed.”

KFAC member Paul Lundy said the summit, which brought state, county and city leaders together to discuss WSF Dec. 7 in Bremerton, went well and included breakout groups where residents, government officials and committee members were able to discuss and brainstorm solutions. Frustrations have mounted over fare increases, the new e-ticketing system Wave-to-Go and other issues raised since Initiative 695 was passed in 1999.

Last year, Rolfes and Appleton were able to gain approval for a House Bill to halt any further fare increases so the state could conduct a system-wide study, review its funding and explore new options.

“I think this should be marketed all the time as mass transit,” said Kingston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Nancy Tietje.

“People don’t understand what has happened to the ferries since I-695,” Appleton added. “It’s affected so many things, and the problem was the legislation was wrong, it was a vehicle excise tax.”

She and Rolfes said the summit was a chance to bring together partners on both sides of the Puget Sound, allowing a conversation between the two regions to spark. Tietje, Port of Kingston Manager Mike Bookey and Kitsap County Commissioner Steve Bauer said many see the ferries as useful only to the commuters from Kitsap County who use them, but really the relationship is symbiotic as they also bring commerce and visitors to and from Kitsap County.

“Some of us proposed (at the summit) Friday we need an economic system,” Bauer said. “We’re in the trap of seeing ourselves as the victims. Frankly, the other side of the water has more at stake than we do.”

Appleton said she is working on House Bills for the upcoming legislative session that will, respectively, do away with the lockout on the Wave-to-Go car passes restricting the number of drivers that can use it to one every half an hour; change the passes so there is no expiration date for them, which costs the user and not WSF. Another bill would create a new committee from each ferry advisory committee and government officials to act as a transportation committee. The fourth and final bill would attempt to add one cent to the existing fuel tax to reestablish $74 million per year in ferry funding that was cut when I-695 was passed.

“The other places I’ve lived don’t have that problem,” said Hansville resident Lou Foritano. “If you don’t have a plan on how to get from point A to point B, you have nothing but pieces.”

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