Don’t pull the plug on SoundRunner | Editorial
September 30, 2011 · Updated 12:12 PM
You don’t pull the plug on a new business after six months, particularly after so much planning and investment. You take a look at what’s working, what’s not, and adjust your business plan accordingly.
Likewise, Kingston port commissioners would be unwise to pull the plug on SoundRunner after only six months of service. The Port of Kingston revived the Kingston-to-Seattle passenger ferry May 31 with the understanding it would take about four years to build ridership to the point where SoundRunner would be self-sustaining. SoundRunner used up its first-year port subsidy, and that has commissioners worried.
To end the service prematurely will have wasted the time and resources of all those who have invested in SoundRunner: state and federal agencies, legislators, employees, volunteers and riders.
Commissioners have a commitment to help make SoundRunner successful. They bought the boats with a $3.5 million federal transit grant. They started the service using a $150,000 operational grant from the state. The commission received a $764,000 federal grant for boat and dock improvements; some of those funds are being used to join One Regional Card for All, or ORCA, a regional fare system that allows one method of payment for several transit systems. It’s sure to boost ridership with the convenience it provides.
The current average number of round-trip commuters is not enough to sustain the service. But it’s going to take longer than the commission’s target date of Dec. 20 to more than double ridership. Stop the service now, or go seasonal, and SoundRunner will never get commuters. SoundRunner is trying to attract commuters from Jefferson County who must take two buses to get to Bainbridge and the state ferry to Seattle. It’s going to take consistency, dependability and marketing to lure those commuters.
SoundRunner is a member of the North Kitsap Tourism Consortium and is in a good position to attract more visitors from the mainland next spring and summer.
SoundRunner can be a vital link to the mainland that will contribute to economic development in Kingston. The port should hold its course through SoundRunner’s first 12 months of operation. It will then have a good data set to analyze, and can set new benchmarks and adjust its subsidy accordingly.