Foot ferry a most livable achievement


Now that was an interesting year.

The sage writers at Money Magazine named Bremerton – yes, Bremerton – the most livable city in America. Meanwhile, the Bainbridge Island City Council (although it was wholly coincidental) voted to apply for state money to construct a vehicle underpass at the High School Road intersection, to channel cross-island traffic under our east-west arterial and prevent Kitsap-bound drivers from inadvertently straying into island neighborhoods. The mayor’s office did the council one better, and began rooting around for state and federal dollars to put an underpass at 305/Winslow Way, too.

All of this made for some lively local chatter. Verily, deafened by hoots and jeers from around Puget Sound (the Review editor’s quip: “Guess this makes Gorst America’s number one suburb”), the folks at Money Magazine quickly backpedaled, explaining that they were really talking about greater Kitsap County in bestowing their honor of “livability.” Even so, hordes of Elysium-seeking new residents never did cross our island for the promised land across the bridge – which was a good thing, as those local underpasses, obviously, never materialized. But consternation over traffic on “our” highway persists 15 years on, thanks to more incremental change. The world has gradually taken notice that like our own little island refuge, Greater Kitsap does indeed have some appealing corners in which to put down stakes.

We were reminded of those times by the recent launch of passenger-only ferry service between Kingston and Seattle. As reported Wednesday, a private operator is running one of the old Washington State Ferries vessels back and forth from Appletree Cove to Colman Dock, to positive response from North Kitsap denizens who have heretofore descended on the Winslow ferry terminal by car or bus to reach Seattle.

We hope the venture is successful, and we wish it well.

That it’s been allowed to happen at all is extraordinary, and required the state to relinquish its monopoly on cross-sound service. No business wants competition, and that certainly includes WSF. Yet basic economics also tells us that the ferry system runs more efficiently when it can effect economies of scale, shoe-horning more riders onto fewer cross-sound runs; so despite years of local lobbying, the WSF was never going to get around to adding a foot-ferry out of Kingston, no matter how much sense it made for linking communities.

How many daily riders will the Kingston-Colman Dock

service draw? Time will tell. Early interest appears strong despite the private ferries’ higher fares, as North Kitsap folk realize with the shorter commute that time is a commodity infinitely more precious than money.

Whether their changing habits show up in noticeably lower traffic volume on SR-305, that remains to be seen. The bridge now sees about 21,000 vehicle crossings per day.

But it can’t hurt. Our wholly livable Kitsap County (even, these days, a revitalized Bremerton) continues to grow, and a direct route between Kingston and the big city is long, long overdue.

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