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Changes float in for North End commute

KINGSTON — With the anticipated January startup of Aqua Express’ passenger-only ferry service from Kingston to Seattle, Kitsap Transit, the Port of Kingston and Kitsap County Public Works are trying to plan for what they expect to be some major changes to downtown traffic and parking patterns.

While the port and county are initially taking a “wait-and-see” approach, Kitsap Transit is heavily adjusting its commuter bus schedules to accommodate the new ferry sailing times.

Transit service to

Bainbridge reduced

Kitsap Transit’s service development coordinator John Clauson said three routes will be affected by the new POF service — Route No. 91 (Kingston to Bainbridge Island), Route No. 66 (Hansville commuter) and Route No. 90 (Poulsbo to Winslow on Bainbridge Island).

Route 91 will be impacted most. Currently in the morning, the bus starts at the Kingston ferry terminal, travels to the George’s Corner Park and Ride, Indianola Club House and Suquamish Park & Ride and then drops passengers off at the Winslow ferry terminal.

The new route will essentially be reversed — the bus will start in Suquamish and work its way north, ending at the Kingston ferry terminal in time to connect with Aqua Express’ sailings.

The afternoon buses will also meet the Kingston ferry arrivals and drop off at all the park and ride lots.

For those who still want to catch a Bainbridge Island ferry, there will be a smaller bus that will leave Kingston, travel through Indianola and Suquamish and finish its route at the Winslow terminal.

Based on a survey Kitsap Transit conducted at its park and ride lots earlier this year, “A majority of folks indicated they wanted to go to Kingston to connect with the new passenger-only ferry,” Clauson said. The No. 66, which picks up commuters in Hansville, will also be adjusted to coincide with the Kingston POF.

“The schedule will have to change on the No. 66 so we can time it (as) such so it would work with the ferry,” he said.

Currently, the No. 66 makes three trips in the morning and three trips in the afternoon between Hansville and Kingston. With the new system, Clauson expects to schedule five trips in the morning and five trips in the afternoon so the buses can meet the foot ferry’s departure and arrival times.

Route No. 90, which starts in Poulsbo and goes directly to Bainbridge, is not

expected to be affected as much as the other two routes, other than a possible decline in ridership, Clauson said.

“We expect people to take the Poulsbo to Bainbridge route still, probably because of the overall commute length,” he said of those coming from Silverdale and Poulsbo.

However, commuters from the North End and the Olympic Peninsula who typically take the Bainbridge Ferry are expected to go to Kingston.

When buses drop off passengers at Kingston dock, they will do so in the farthest right lane in the Washington State Ferry vehicle holding area. Riders will access the foot ferry from the port’s public fishing pier.

And if the sailings reach capacity during the first week?

“We will have an extra bus or driver just sitting in Kingston, in the event this is as popular as we hope it to be, they may reach capacity on their sailings,” Clauson said. “We’ll need to pick up folks and hustle them down to Bainbridge.”

Because Aqua Express does not provide mid-day service, it is expected that people who want to come home during that period will take the Bainbridge Island Ferry back to Kitsap. To accommodate this, buses will pick up riders at the Bainbridge terminal and drop them off at the Kingston Park & Ride lots during the mid-day.

Riders will be able to get a hold of the new schedules next month, Clauson said, prior to Aqua Express’ expected Jan. 18 start up date. However, Kitsap Transit drivers are already alerting their riders about the upcoming changes.

“We are trying to do the best we can,” Clauson said. “We’ve done the survey

work in advance. We’ve got an idea of what people want us to do.”

Kitsap Transit Executive Director Dick Hayes said, based on the results from the agency’s survey, he guesses an additional 300 people will be commuting to Seattle through the Kingston POF rather than going to Bainbridge.

New ‘kiss and ride’

lot added at port

Kitsap Transit and the Port of Kingston encourage commuters to take buses to the park and ride lots, which are currently not utilized to their fullest capacity.

The transit authority has three Park & Ride lots in Kingston, totaling 518

spaces: Bayside Community Church has 220 spaces, of which 55 are

used; George’s Corner has 225 spaces, of which 90 are used; and the Park &

Ride lot on Iowa Street, across from the Kingston Community Center, has 73 spaces, of which 51 are used.

“An awful lot of those cars are ride share pools,” Clauson said.

The Port of Kingston has 100 spaces that are pay lots and are typically used by commuters, plus 67 two-hour only spots. Of the commuter spaces, about 60 percent is used, said Port of Kingston Harbor Master Tom Berry. The two-hour spot capacities vary from season to season.

For those dropping off passengers, there is now a designated ‘kiss and ride’

parking area. Located on the south side of Washington Avenue, across

from the Kingston Cove Yacht Club, there are 14 parking spots designated for 15-minute loading and unloading.

Berry said the port also plans to install speed bumps in its parking lot to discourage speeding when people are late catching the ferry. Berry and Kitsap

Transit are also working together to place directional signage to help traffic flow.

But there’s not much more the port can do for now, Berry said, other than to sit back and see what happens.

Kitsap County Public Works traffic engineer Dave Smith said the county is also waiting to see how traffic will line up with the expected additional commuters. Right now, it’s difficult to say if any major rerouting will be needed in the downtown area.

“Primarily, what we’re looking at is where the traffic will queue up on county roads,” Smith said, referring to South Kingston Road and Washington Avenue.

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