A new fast ferry from Kitsap County to Seattle is a win for the county’s residents, particularly commuters who will find themselves with an extra hour in the day.
But the ferry, and others like it, also bring broader benefits by helping address the region’s struggles with housing affordability and transportation. Kudos to Kitsap Transit, and Kitsap County voters for advancing creative solutions to shared woes.
Voters paved the way for passenger-only ferry service by approving a 0.3% sales-and-use tax increase in 2016. The Southworth route, launched last Monday, is the third and final passenger-only ferry route funded through that vote. Like the transit authority’s fast ferries from Kingston and Bremerton, it delivers passengers to Seattle in roughly 30 minutes, rather than the hour or more it takes for Washington State Ferries to travel the same routes.
For commuters, that’s an extra hour to sleep in, play with the kids or just relax, making the county more attractive to commuters. That could open up a lot of affordable housing without adding traffic to already-congested Seattle-area roadways. The median home price in Kitsap County is just over $461,000, compared with around $723,000 in King County, according to the Zillow Group. Everybody wins.
Small wonder that other communities are eyeing the potential benefits of marine-passenger transportation. A passenger ferry across Lake Washington could shave 30 minutes off the trip from Renton to the University of Washington. Tacoma leaders have been talking about a potential passenger ferry to Seattle for years. The Puget Sound Regional Council has been studying the feasibility of expanding passenger-only ferry service in other counties on the Sound. However, more routes would require more dock space on the Seattle side, as North Sound Transportation Alliance member Bruce Agnew and marine transit advocate Peter Philips pointed out in a recent Seattle Times Op-Ed.
Already, Kitsap’s Bremerton Fast Ferry has had to move to Seattle’s Pier 54 because the passenger ferry float at Colman Dock, used by King County’s Water Taxis to West Seattle and Vashon Island, was at capacity. Agnew and Philips suggest building a multimodal, multi-user transportation hub at the north end of Terminal 46, next to the current fast ferry and water taxi docks. They’ve called for stakeholders, including the Port of Seattle, Northwest Seaport Alliance, North Sound Transportation Alliance, Seattle, King and Kitsap counties and the state of Washington, to jointly explore the idea. Their proposal deserves serious consideration, particularly as the Biden administration considers massive infrastructure investments.
Whatever the details, it’s time to take better advantage of opportunities to ease congestion, and allow other Sound-area communities to seize the benefits Kitsap County residents now enjoy.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial, originally published April 2, 2021, was corrected on April 5, 2021, to reflect that it had incorrectly stated Kitsap County’s voter-approved sales tax for passenger ferry service. The tax is 0.3%.