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County residents prepare to ‘ride the wave’

KINGSTON — Members of the “Yes! Kitsap Passenger Only Ferries” campaign want county residents to “ride the wave of the future.”

Riding the wave means taking part in what could be a passenger-only ferry from Kingston to Seattle. Citizens throughout the county will have a chance to experience the service Sept. 20.

A passenger-only ferry boat from Seattle’s Clipper Navigation will be transporting riders between Kingston and Seattle all day. The boat, which travels at a top speed of 35 knots, will be able to take about 200 passengers per ride.

Sailings from Kingston to Seattle will be at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. The ferry will dock at the Argosy Dock (Pier 55) on the Seattle waterfront.

Sailings from Seattle to Kingston are at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Fare is $5 round trip and can be purchased at the John L. Scott office in Kingston.

Parking will be available at the Kingston Marina and Bayside Community Church on Barber Cut-Off Road. Kitsap Transit will be providing free shuttle service from the church to the marina.

Kingston residents Tom Waggoner and Sonny Woodward, who are committee members of the Yes! campaign, said this demonstration is a surefire way to show county citizens the benefits of bringing in passenger-only ferries to the Kitsap ports.

“We are the only other potential route to do a demo day with the facility and landing,” Waggoner said.

Southworth doesn’t have the necessary facilities and Sept. 19 will be the last day that the Washington State Ferry system will run its passenger-only ferries between Bremerton and Seattle, Waggoner added.

But the demonstration is not just about benefiting North End residents.

“This is about Kitsap County,” Waggoner said. “Not just Kingston.”

The Yes! campaign is proposing to replace the state’s discontinued state passenger ferry services with Kitsap Transit controlled boats.

In order to do this, on Nov. 4, voters in Kitsap County are being asked to pass a 3/10 of a 1 percent sales tax and a 3/10 of a 1 percent motor excise tax to fund the public portion of this proposal. This would generate $8.7 million for the $16.9 million estimated operating cost.

With a $100 purchase, the sales tax increase would be 30 cents. With the motor excise tax, the annual cost for a renewal license would be $60 for a $20,000 car.

Other costs would be covered by ferry fares, miscellaneous income from retail sales and federal funds. The total cost of the plan is $24.6 million.

If passed, local ports, private boat operators and Kitsap Transit would partner to provide ferry services from Kitsap County to Seattle with four passenger-only ferries from Bremerton, two from Southworth and two from Kingston, plus backup boats.

“It’s refreshing for WSF to give up a grip on passenger-only ferries,” Waggoner said. “It’s giving opportunity for public/private joint ventures.”

Kitsap County gets a chance to control its own destiny, Woodward added.

The new ferries would eliminate the pressure on the Bainbridge Island terminal, he said, noting a Kingston passenger boat would also improve Olympic Peninsula residents’ access to the Emerald City.

“The tax thing is so simple and so small, it’s almost insignificant,” Woodward added.

Waggoner emphasized the demo would show residents two things: the high-speed technology available for ferry services and how the services are not just for commuters, but for everyone.

“It’s more than just a five-day-a-week service, but a service available for events and activities,” Waggoner said.

Woodward said in the future, passenger-only vessels can be beneficial to the community and local economy.

Bremerton’s economic future relies on the ferries and Kingston is going through a revitalization that could benefit from the tourism, he said.

“So it boils down to quality of life and life-style,” he added.

This isn’t the first time Kingston has been involved in pushing for passenger-only service. In 1997, the community held a ferry demonstration day and received a positive response from residents.

A year and a half ago, county officials and Kingston community leaders started talks again with private boat companies.

“It’s here, we have water on three sides of our county, it’s time to bring that technology home to our community,” Waggoner said.

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