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Seats available on passenger-only research ferry from Bremerton

The Rich Passage 1 hasn't attracted the hoped-for number of riders in its first few weeks of service between Bremerton and Seattle, according to Kitsap Transit. Kitsap Sun file photo
The Rich Passage 1 hasn't attracted the hoped-for number of riders in its first few weeks of service between Bremerton and Seattle, according to Kitsap Transit. Kitsap Sun file photo
July 17, 2012

By Ed Friedrich of the Kitsap Sun

July 17, 2012 0

BREMERTON ? The research ferry Rich Passage I performed well in its first three weeks but didn't draw the hoped-for number of riders.

Kitsap Transit Executive Director John Clauson, in an update to the transit board Tuesday, said the boat hasn't missed a trip and has mostly maintained its schedule between Bremerton and Seattle. The agency is running four daily round trips as the last step in federally funded wake research.

Also Tuesday, the board approved a plan to repay the Port of Bremerton nearly $3 million for designing, building and installing a float and pontoon structure at Bremerton Transportation Center.

About 400 people a day rode the Rich Passage I the first week, when trips were free. A $7 round-trip fare was instituted the second week, which included a holiday, and daily customers plunged to 275. Last week, they rebounded to 338, an average of 42 per trip on the 118-seat catamaran.

The 7:12 a.m. sailing is the most popular as the 35-minute crossing gets people to Seattle before 8 a.m. Many return home on the 5:07 p.m. boat. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers get going earlier than most, and comprise the majority of people on the busy 6:20 a.m. sailing from Seattle and 4:25 p.m. from Bremerton.

"If you think of it as a brand-new service, it's doing quite well, but it's not quite up to what we'd hoped for," Clauson said of ridership.

The catamaran creates less wake at high speeds, so rips through Rich Passage at 38 knots and slows to 27 the rest of the way to conserve fuel. Devices under and above the water record the wake, and scientists monitor beach changes. Clauson stood on the beach the first week and reported the Rich Passage I wake was about half that from a state car ferry.

"I wanted to see for myself what the impact on the beaches was," he said. "In comparison to the car vessels, it's very small."

The worst wake was created when the ferry zipped west around Point Glover, so the route was shifted closer to Bainbridge Island.

"The wake on the Bainbridge Island side seems to be almost nonexistent," Clauson said.

Kitsap Transit received $600,000 in federal funds to operate the ferry. Passengers are carried during the testing to simulate high-speed ferry service. A reservation system, bicycle and passenger loading, fares and fare-collection systems also are being evaluated during the wake research. It will continue through October, when scientists want to see the effect of winter storms without the boat. There is no money to operate it after the research is completed.

When the Port of Bremerton built Bremerton Marina, it constructed a pontoon structure, coupled it with a float Kitsap Transit had for earlier cross-sound passenger-only ferry service and installed it as protection from car ferry waves. The agencies agreed that Kitsap Transit's share of costs, owed to the port, would grow annually based on the consumer price index. To keep the balance from increasing, Kitsap Transit reached a deal with the port to pay $100,000 a year for 30 years with no interest, beginning in March. The total is just under $3 million. Should Kitsap Transit ever receive long-term funding to operate cross-sound ferry service, which would use the float, the remaining debt would be paid off in four years. They also agreed on how to split maintenance responsibilities.

In other action, when the 95-year-old former Mosquito Fleet boat Carlisle II was heading to Port Townsend recently for a $15,000 bottom painting and annual inspection, it experienced engine problems and will need a new cylinder head. On Tuesday, the board approved another $6,000 for the repairs. When the boat returns, it will be used more sparingly, possibly only Saturdays, Clauson said.

Ed Friedrich thumbnail
About Ed Friedrich

Ed Friedrich is the Kitsap Sun’s transportation and military affairs reporter. He has worked for the paper for 32 years.

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