Opinion

SoundRunner needs your help | Guest View

Ports can get grants and tax revenue while also running a business to make profits for community projects such as SoundRunner.

Taxes in the Kingston Port District, at $44 for the average home, amount to 12 percent of the Port’s $1.4 million income. Eighty-eight percent comes from the marina, parking fees and leases. About 48 percent of this pays the marina and park costs, about 42 percent pays for SoundRunner, and 10 percent goes for capital improvements.

Bottom line: Sound Runner doesn’t raise taxes, but it limits the cash that’s available for other projects.

State ferries started the Kingston-Seattle passenger ferry project in the early 1990s because walk-ons were expected to overload the Bainbridge ferry and traffic on SR 305. After doing the planning and design, WSF was pulled out of the passenger ferry business and it was bestowed on local governments. King County formed a ferry district for the Vashon Island/West Seattle ferries and Kitsap Transit attempted two ballot measures. While approved by north-end voters, the Kitsap ferry district proposal failed in the less enlightened county areas.

In 2005, an unprofitable Aqua Express ferry struggled for 10 months and shut down. Lesson learned: public transit always needs a subsidy. The Vashon ferry’s subsidy is about 70 percent, and Kitsap Transit’s buses are about 80 percent. SoundRunner’s plan has always been to become subsidized by a regional ferry district.

This summer’s challenge is to make SoundRunner work. Continuing service through September gives us a fighting chance. The Port can afford this without dipping into savings, raising taxes or eliminating capital improvements. By going forward, we stay in the game for the support that our elected officials, led by Sen. Rolfes, are working hard to get for us. We also will have Saturday runs, starting in June, so families can enjoy the ride to Seattle.

While the community supports SoundRunner, 62 percent to 26 percent, only a few get to ride with today’s schedule.

We need to be smart about overtures to decommission SoundRunner now.  A hasty decision could put the Port in debt despite our savings. Shutting down SoundRunner sets back a regional ferry district for at least a decade, and all we’ve worked to build here will be gone by then.

I believe a passenger ferry that serves the people who live here brings vitality to our community which, in turn, supports retailers, good jobs and the social capital that makes Kingston a great place to live. Linda Fyfe has come aboard to quarterback the community’s drive to Save Our SoundRunner. She’s coordinating impressively energetic business leaders, commuters and other krafty Kingstonians who have come forward to help.

We need your help if we’re going to succeed. Call 297-3016 or e-mail christinec@portofkingston.org.

— Walt Elliott is a Port of Kingston commissioner. Contact him at elliottmoore@comcast.net.

 

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