Aqua Express asks riders to express ideas

KINGSTON — Before officially starting its Kingston-to-Seattle passenger-only ferry service next week, Aqua Express is reaching out to the community to learn what it can do to provide the best possible service for its riders.

The private ferry company will be hosting free “listening runs” Jan. 13 and Jan 14 and will be using the foot ferry’s new schedule. There will also be free food from the boat’s food and beverage service.

The foot ferry will leave Kingston at 5:30 a.m., 7:10 a.m., 8:50 a.m., 3:50 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.; the ferry will leave Seattle at 6:20 a.m., 8 a.m., 3 p.m., 4:40 p.m. and 6:20 p.m.

Riders and residents will also have a chance to get a closer look at the boat and provide input from 1-4 p.m. Jan. 15 at the new Kingston POF dock, located at the end of the public fishing pier. During the three-hour window, the foot ferry will be moored at the dock and Aqua Express and Kitsap Transit officials will be available to answer any questions about the service and schedules. Ticket books will also be available for purchase and a ceremonial ribbon cutting will take place at 2 p.m.

With the free runs and tours of the boats this week, Aqua Express General Manager Brian Grantham said he wants residents get a feel for the boat and will be prepared to take comments from riders about the schedule, which has been a big concern of late.

“Everyone has something to say about it,” he said. “We’ll get an earful, I’m sure, of our schedule.”

Residents have been concerned about the lack of a 5:40 p.m. return trip from Seattle, he said, which has now been replaced by a 4:40 p.m. and a 6:20 p.m run.

He said the routes were rescheduled this way to accommodate all passengers. Instead of loading 250 riders for a 5:40 p.m. trip, they will be able to bring back more with the 4:40 p.m. and 6:20 p.m., and still work with the boat’s 90-minute turnaround.

Grantham also asks that riders keep in mind that Aqua Express is starting from scratch, as there is no information about the best ferry schedule or ridership numbers on a Kingston-to-Seattle route.

“We’re trying to do the best we can with no data, no comprehension of what the ridership will be,” he said. “We’re shooting from the hip.”

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