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The ‘poor stepchild’ in transit services

Kingston may not be a mecca for commuters traveling on foot but those commuters who rely on Kitsap Transit find the schedules frustrating. - Staff illustration
Kingston may not be a mecca for commuters traveling on foot but those commuters who rely on Kitsap Transit find the schedules frustrating.
— image credit: Staff illustration

Locals say WSF and Kitsap Transit need to work together in scheduling.

KINGSTON — Locals wishing to use public transportation in Kingston say it’s not easy being “green.”

During commute hours those living on the Kitsap Peninsula traveling to Edmonds or Seattle rely on multiple transportation systems — ferries, busses and trains — to get to work. However, because of scheduling differences between the separate entities, it’s not often feasible to leave the car at home.

Kingston resident Betsy Cooper commutes to work aboard the Kingston/Edmonds ferry every morning to her job as permit administrator for King County’s waste water treatment division. A commuter of 12 years, she said there is a lack of a flexible connection in either direction.

“Commuter ferries like the 5:15 and 5:50 never run on time to reliably meet the busses and trains on the other side,” she said.

The main problem on the Kingston side regards scheduling differences between the Kingston Ferry and Kitsap Transit.

After disembarking the Kingston ferry, locals find themselves racing to the bus stop in hopes they haven’t missed a bus. The bus stop is now located in the parking lot adjacent to J’aime Les Crepes. It was previously near the drop-off lanes in the terminal’s holding lot by the main office.

“There are a number of folks that use the bus just to get to their cars up at the park and rides,” Cooper said. “One of the major things is if (the bus) isn’t there it doesn’t allow people to get to Albertson’s to get to their cars.”

Walking the 2.5 miles to Alberton’s isn’t always a pleasant option when the bus isn’t available.

The bus — No. 91 — which comes to Kingston, comes once an hour, on the hour. However, a quick glance at the ferry schedule shows few ferry runs match up with the bus schedule.

“Our schedule actually doesn’t meet up for the Kingston sailings,” said Jack Freer, acting route operations director for Kitsap Transit. “The majority of traffic for the Kingston/Edmonds is cars. There’s not that much foot traffic during the day.”

In comparison, Bainbridge Island is a mecca for commuters. If the bus is late to Bainbridge, 40-50 people will be upset, he said.

“If we are lucky there are three or four people waiting at Kingston. I don’t want to say (Bainbridge is) more important because those three or four people are important ,too,” Freer said.

Freer, who used to commute to Seattle via the Bainbridge Island/Seattle ferry for 20 years, said WSF and Kitsap Transit held their separate schedules for years. He said he’s always wondered why there hasn’t been more discussion to try and align schedules.

He said with the changed bus stop there are no options currently for those with special needs, primarily those who rely on wheelchairs.

The bus stop change, he said, was spurred by security requirements and the fact that busses continually got blocked in by oversized trucks and those wishing to drop off ferry passengers.

“Right now we don’t have an option for people with special needs,” he said. “If I thought I could get in and out on time I would like to take the bus down there, not only for special needs but all our customers. It’s more convenient, especially with inclimate weather.”

Joy Goldenberg, who works with Washington State Ferries, said most transit services don’t have a problem with meeting the ferry schedules, citing Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

“I understand that’s not the case for Kingston’s side of things but one of our objectives is to work as close as we can with our transits to link those up for our customers. That’s one of our operating strategies,” she said.

Cooper said she feels it’s great the other transits can meet up with other ferry passengers.

“I’ll acknowledge they have a little bit of a challenge with Kingston,” she said. “But if they saved a little bit of time in either direction they could pick up more Kingston ferry passengers during commute hours. It feels like we’re the poor stepchild.”

Kingston resident Kinley Dellar, the program coordinator for the North Kitsap Climate Change Strategy, said taking public transit is the better alternative. However, in Kingston’s case it’s currently more hassle than benefit.

“It’s a great way to go green, to save resources, to save fuel, but its more work than it should be,” he said. “Because it’s not as convenient, we don’t have the ridership it could be.”

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