Consultant: Kitsap, King should have joint ferries

BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - A consultant preparing Kitsap County's passenger-only ferry plan says the county should partner with King County to provide the service.

Kitsap Transit is weighing several options for its passenger ferry service, including publicly owned and operated, privately owned and operated, and a public-private partnership or public-public partnerships, the Kitsap Sun reported.

On Friday, Scott Davis of KPFF Consulting Engineers told a Kitsap Transit committee that the consultants prefer a public-public arrangement. That arrangement rose to the top of the options because the agencies understand each other's issues; it allows for synergy, particularly in capital-improvement projects; and it prevents duplicating work, Davis said.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson said he's been talking for a while to King County Ferry District officials about whether they're interested in working together and at what level.

"It could be as little as sharing boats, taking advantage of them just building a maintenance barge, all the way up to: 'Why don't you guys just operate it for us?' " Clauson said.

The King County Ferry District operates water taxis between West Seattle and downtown Seattle and Vashon Island and downtown Seattle. It was created in April 2007 and levied 5.5 cents per $1,000 dollars in assessed property value. The levy was reduced to 0.3 cents per $1,000 in 2010 to offset a property tax increase for the struggling Metro bus service.

Kitsap Transit would have to determine its own funding mechanism for ferries crossing the Puget Sound and have it approved by voters. It could pay King County to operate cross-Puget Sound ferries. The consultants are expected to recommend a funding source in their final report to the transit board in September.

"Exploring options to ease our region's congestion is of great interest to me," King County Councilman Joe McDermott, who is also chairman of the ferry district, said Friday. "Water taxis offer a free right of way and quick, safe commuting. Partnerships to expand service could offer a great opportunity."

Paul Brodeur, who directs the King County Marine Division that operates the water taxis, attended Friday's meeting. King County Ferry District, in a draft 2014-18 strategic plan, includes a section about exploring growth and partnership opportunities.

The consultants envision beginning cross-Puget Sound service to downtown Seattle from Bremerton, Kingston and Southworth. The low-wake, 118-passenger Rich Passage 1 would serve Bremerton. A Rich Passage 2 would be built to back up all three routes. Kingston and Southworth would each have one 150-seat boat. Each route would feature six round trips per day, during commute times.