Saturday, March 1, 2008

HI Superferry: Washington state's "Highway on the water"

Today (3/1/08) I met some visitors from Tacoma, Washington, so I used it as an opportunity to query them on the ferries in the Puget Sound area, mainly the Seattle-Bremerton Ferry. I relied upon them for this information. [I have edited this passage with further information provided by another knowledgeable Washington visitor today (3/3/08) who wanted to be referred to a Chuck from Olympic Penninsula. He said people there would know who he is]:

Apparently the state owns and operates the ferries in Puget Sound, I believe all slow ferries. On the Seattle-Bremerton route these ferries run 12 hours a day, turning around every 45 minutes, going almost continously, ideally the two always at opposite points of the route. They carry 200+ cars per load and 200 to 400 people average per load. I am told they run regularly at those load levels. At peak times during the week people will regularly wait 2 and 3 ferry loads or 2 to 3 hours before being able to get on a ferry. They say the fee is $13/car and $7/person each way. The route is a little less than 20 miles each way on the Seattle-Bremerton route.

A few months ago one of the ferries was taken off the route after it hit a breakwater and ruined its hull. The state apparently does not maintain a number of the other ferries well, and they have been rusting and deteriorating for a number of years. This created a real uproar in the Puget Sound area because the people there really rely upon the ferries. The Governor there, Christine Gregoire (D), stepped in in a high profile manner to try and solve the problem. See:

I am told but have not been able to verify that one slow ferry is being bought for about $30 million for the Seattle-Bremerton route and there are efforts to replace the other ferry on the Seattle-Bremerton route and order ferries for some of the other routes in the Puget Sound area. The Seattle-Bainbridge route (about 8 miles) and the Edmonds-Kingston route (about 6 miles) are also very important and lead to wealthier neighborhoods.

Chuck mentioned that Washington's DOT did test fast ferries and decided that in the narrow channels the wave wake put out by them was too much at speeds over 12 to 13 knots, and so that is the speed limit in the narrow passages, but that higher speeds are allowed in the open area crossings of the Puget Sound as are on the Bainbridge route, Edmonds route, and at least half of the Bremerton route.

Apparently the people in this area "need them (reliable ferries) as badly as we don't need them." The waters of Puget Sound between Seattle and Bremerton are relatively calm compared to...say...the Pailolo Channel. Take a look at those above numbers. That's a potential money maker. Washington state could not afford to buy the Alakai, but maybe the state would allow a concession on this, or maybe they could lease it. When the second Superferry is finished in 2009, it could become the second ferry on the Seattle-Bremerton route and the ferry just bought could be moved to a different route in the Puget Sound. Time is of the essence, guys. This idea was made for you, Mr. Lehman.

A little bit about Bremerton that I found:
Bremerton, Kitsap County, Washington, USA
Bremerton...does, however, share some qualities with its big neighbour, Seattle; rain. The two are also connected by a thin umbilical cord called the 'ferry'....
The Area
Bremerton is first and foremost a Navy town. Some people may try to deny it, but the Navy is far and away the largest employer in the region let alone Bremerton. There are two Naval Bases and one weapons research facility in the county. The city is the county seat for Kitsap County, which occupies the entire Kitsap Peninsula. Bremerton has been around for over a century. It has had its high points during its existence, but in its current incarnation it is merely a shell of a city. Without the Navy, there would be far fewer residences. The town does have its good qualities, such as a low cost of living and fairly affordable housing, though this has done little to draw in new residents.
The town sits on both sides of the opening to Dyes Inlet. The inlet divides Bremerton into roughly two halves of East Bremerton, and West Bremerton. The drop-off point of the ferry is right in the middle of Downtown, which is the easternmost portion of West Bremerton.

Here are some more articles/links on the Seattle-Bremerton Ferry:

Something else I saw of interest about an Alaska ferry:

Aloha, Brad

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