Opinion

SoundRunner is a good investment | Editorial

The SoundRunner passenger ferry is a good investment in alternative transportation and in the economic development of Kingston and North Kitsap.

We encourage the Port of Kingston Commission to approve subsidizing SoundRunner for a specified time.

First, port districts are established under state law to foster economic development, specifically “the acquisition, construction, maintenance, operation, development and regulation within the district of harbor improvements, rail or motor vehicle transfer and terminal facilities, water transfer and terminal facilities, air transfer and terminal facilities, or any combination of such transfer and terminal facilities, and other commercial transportation, transfer, handling, storage and terminal facilities, and industrial improvements.”

A passenger ferry service falls within that purview.

Second, finding ways to help commuters leave their cars at home is good for our environment, our neighborhoods and our streets, particularly as the region’s population grows, the state ferry system struggles for funding, and fuel costs balloon.

Currently, the only option for North Kitsap residents needing to get to central Seattle is to drive to Bainbridge Island and take the ferry to Colman Dock, or take the Kingston ferry and drive or take a train from Edmonds.

A passenger ferry between Kingston and Pier 50 in downtown Seattle would connect North Kitsap residents to a vast transportation network, broadening opportunities for air travel, education, employment, and health care. A North Kitsap resident could leave his or her car at home or in Kingston, take the SoundRunner to Pier 50, and walk to King Street Station for light rail or Amtrak, catch a shuttle to SeaTac Airport, or catch the Sounder train to Everett, Tacoma and points in between.

Third, passenger ferry service will also make education, employment, health care and shopping in North Kitsap more readily available to visitors. It will encourage investment in North Kitsap. Port Commissioner Pete DeBoer envisions Seattleites commuting to Kingston to work. “We have fiber optic cable in place in Kingston. We have office space available and lots available for development.”

Dan Martin, former Kingston Chamber of Commerce president and former Kingston-Woodinville commuter, expects the service will attract King, Pierce and Snohomish county residents who are tired of commuting on congested highways. Homes are more affordable here than on the mainland, and a passenger ferry service would be convenient for someone who works on the mainland to buy a home here.

Fourth, for the 200 or so commuters from Jefferson County who travel daily on Jefferson Transit to Poulsbo, then transfer to Kitsap Transit to the Bainbridge ferry landing, the Kingston ferry service would shave as much as 21/2 hours a day off their commute time.

The boats are paid for and the infrastructure is in place. The subsidy would come from port reserves, but could also come from boat charters and from grant funding. If SoundRunner doesn’t meet its revenue goals within a specified period of time, the service can be pulled and the boats used for something else.

There are risks: Mistakes were made in the first SoundRunner launch last fall. Ridership will have to build to 300 a day in order to break even. The port will have to develop a system so it can alert commuters to weather-related cancellations and delays. It will have to build the trust of riders. But the potential reward is worth the risk.

Let’s give SoundRunner another try.

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