Let voters decide fate of passenger ferry service | In Our Opinion
August 31, 2012 · 11:30 AM
In 2007, voters in North Kitsap communities voted in favor of creating a transit district. The measure failed countywide. North Kitsap, which would benefit most from a passenger ferry service between Kingston and Seattle, should vote on whether to create a North Kitsap transit district.
A passenger ferry from Kingston provides a vital pedestrian transportation alternative between North Kitsap and downtown Seattle. It reduces the traveler’s dependence on the car. The movement of people contributes to economic development.
SoundRunner was never going to pay for itself on fares alone. At full capacity of 150 passengers and $5 fare each way, the most a vessel could generate in fare revenue was $390,000 per year. The annual cost of operating a SoundRunner vessel: about $860,000 per year. Proponents thought that using the backup boat for special events and leasing could help close that gap. But looking at the numbers, it was clear that the service, like most transit services, would have to be subsidized.
The Kingston Port Commission voted to revive the Kingston-to-Seattle passenger ferry May 31, 2011 with the understanding it would take about four years to build ridership to the point where SoundRunner would be self-sustaining. So we have to ask, why back out now? Especially after the investment in boats, infrastructure and ticket system; after the long process of rebuilding ridership, including rider trust in the service’s dependability. Sinking SoundRunner now is like hitting a ball into deep right field, running to second base, then turning around and heading back to the dugout.
Now, while SoundRunner is in operation, is the time to seek the formation of a North Kitsap transit district. Infrastructure is in place. Ridership is climbing, albeit slowly. Familiarity with SoundRunner service and schedules is growing. The confidence of commuters who go through the trouble of taking Jefferson County Transit to Kitsap Transit to the Port of Kingston is coming back. Kill SoundRunner now, and you’ll have trouble regaining that confidence if and when a new service starts.
A transit system should be supported if it provides an important public service. We believe SoundRunner does. And we believe more people will use it if they are making an investment in it.