Yesterday I the opportunity to chat with Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson and get some updates on the Southworth and Bremerton Fast Ferries.
Southworth service is scheduled to begin in 2020. I asked John if he had more specific timing. He said this is still on track but to expect for “latter 2020”.
As for planned schedule, this will be a 1 boat service, similar to how the Kingston Fast Ferry operates today. Since the new route will be sharing a slip in Southworth, the schedule will have to work around the existing Triangle Route that operates between Southworth, Vashon and Fauntleroy. John indicated that a sharing agreement is yet to be worked out but there have been regular conversations with WSF. His sense was that WSF is relatively happy with the latest schedule, which started March 31, 2019 so he doesn’t anticipate they’ll make more than 5 minute adjustments to how this stands today.
On the Seattle side, things are a bit trickier. The passenger ferry dock that is currently operating north of the car ferry dock will soon move to the south side after construction of the new ferry terminal is complete. WSF will then lease the passenger ferry dock from King County. Kitsap Transit is currently negotiating a shared use agreement with King County for this new dock. The dock is designed to operate 2 passenger ferries and will need to accommodate Kingston, Bremerton, Southworth Kitsap Transit Fast Ferries, in addition to the King County Water Taxis that operate to Vashon and West Seattle.
As for vessels, it sounds like things are mostly on track with Kitsap Transit taking delivery of the new bow loader style vessels, MV Enetai and Manette to be delivered mid 2020. This will then go through sea trials and crew training. John didn’t express much concern over the trials and indicated the training to take about 30 days.
As for the Southworth slip, it sounds like there is some interest in building out a 2nd slip on the Southworth side. This would add scheduling flexibility and redundancy in case a vessel breaks down at dock. However, this is still in the exploration phase and not planned for service start in 2020.
Community involvement will look very similar to how they rolled out Kingston. Schedule flexibility is so limited he didn’t think this topic would be put out to the community for feedback.
Parking and route bus changes on the Southworth side are yet to be worked out but he the team has recently started kicking off some of these tactical considerations. I did ask him if there had been any discussion with Pierce Transit about routed bus connections. he said he has been in conversations with their CEO, Sue Dryer, on this very topic and there is interest from Pierce Transit on a potential connection from the Purdy Park & Ride, Pierce County’s closest Park & Ride to the Kitsap County line.
Bremerton recently received and put a 2nd vessel into service, the M/V Reliance. This was the 2nd low wake catamaran to serve the Bremerton route and relieves the Rich Passage I to serve as the backup boat. According to John, Kitsap Transit expects delivery of the 3rd vessel, Lady Swift, in the latter part of July. This was expected earlier (July 10th) but they asked for additional insulation to be applied between the passenger and mechanical cabins, which resulted in additional wake studies. Sea trials are expected to go relatively quickly on this one since this is essentially a carbon copy of the Reliance.
Once this vessel is operational, the RP1 can be dry docked. John says this will take about 2 weeks but no more than 30 days. Once this service is complete, Kitsap Transit will begin promoting the 2 boat schedule. John reluctantly estimated a September timeframe on this. Once the 2 boat schedule begins, a 4 week “scientific study” of potential erosion impact can begin. There is some time sensitivity to completing these 4 weeks of a Monday through Saturday schedule prior to winter both due to the winter schedule and weather considerations. Positive results from the study could result in added sailings even beyond the planed two boat schedule.
I also asked about a recent loading procedure change that passengers have noticed. There are 118 seats on the Bremerton Fast Ferry today and 88 of those are held for reservation holders. Up until last week, reservation holders were also first to board. Walk-ons would then follow. Last week passengers noticed a new procedure where the first 30 walk-ons were boarded before the reservation holders. According to John, this is something Kitsap Transit is trying out because it may yield faster boarding time. I asked if he had data back on this yet but he indicated he hasn’t yet received it.