Early Sunday ferry run saved

Having evaluated popular response to alternatives A and B, Washington State Ferries have decided to go with “neither of the above.”

Instead, when the system makes the first significant revision to the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry schedule in 15 years, it will adopt a different alternative – what you might call Option C – to respond to the feedback it got on the two proferred options.

“We have completed a new draft that takes into account what we heard from the public,” WSF spokeswoman Susan Harris said. “We’ve kept the early morning sailing on Sunday, and have a later departure in the evening – 10:55 instead of 10:30.”

The new schedule was not yet ready for release at press time Tuesday, ferry officials said, because it is still awaiting review by the area Ferry Advisory Committee. It will be released sometime this week.

Two weeks ago, WSF announced plans to revise the Bainbridge-Seattle schedule, and released two draft alternatives. Both added an ultra-early sailing on weekday mornings – 4:40 a.m. under one plan, 4:50 a.m. under the other.

But adding that early sailing meant something had to give on the other end. The result was fewer late-evening boats from Seattle.

Both schedules had only three sailings after 10 p.m. – one alternative had sailings at 10:30, midnight and 1:30 a.m.; the other, 10 minutes later.

But the change that generated the most hue and cry was a plan to drop the 5:30 a.m. sailing from Bainbridge on Sunday morning, dispatching the earliest boat at 6:15 a.m. under one plan, 6:25 a.m. under the other.

Poulsbo resident Mark Nazarino spearheaded the opposition to that omission, contending that emergency personnel like nurses and firefighters as well as travelers depend on the early Sunday run.

“I noticed after looking that there was no 5:30 boat on Sunday,” said Nazarino, a technician with a Seattle television station, whose shift begins at 6:30 on Sunday mornings. “I need that boat to get to work – otherwise, I would have to drive around.”

Thinking others on the early Sunday ferry might also be there out of necessity – who, after all, takes a 5:30 ferry on Sunday for non-essential reasons? – Nazarino drafted a petition, and found ready signers.

“There are maybe 70 firefighters on that boat, and 50 to 60 nurses,” he said. “I had a 95 percent success rate in getting people to sign the petition.”

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, when ferry officials were riding the Bainbridge boats to get feedback, Nazarino made his pitch. With support from the other riders, he got the message across.

“I gave them a petition with 100 signatures, and told them I could easily get 400 to 500 more,” he said. “They said that wasn’t necessary, that they had gotten the message,” he said.

Chief impetus for the schedule change are the chronic delays plaguing the busy Bainbridge-Seattle route.

Ferry officials said that the amount of time required to onload and offload cars and passengers on the large boats used on the run make staying on schedule impossible.

In addition to retooling the schedule to make it coincide with reality, WSF decided to add the ultra-early commuter sailing. That had been tried as an experiment two summers ago, when Bainbridge had a third boat for a brief period of time, and was well-received, officials said.

Once adopted, the new schedule will take effect in September, when the fall schedule normally goes into effect.

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