Passenger-Only Ferry Program Council

Passenger-only ferry service has been a key element of cross Puget Sound transportation since 1984. (Read a History of Passenger-Only Ferries). In 2002, the Transportation Commission announced its intention to eliminate state subsidies for passenger only ferry service in response to diminished ferry funding caused by taxpayer initiatives and dwindling ridership. The Washington State Legislature eliminated funding for passenger-only service to Bremerton in September 2003, while extending funding for Washington State Ferries’ passenger-only service to Vashon. At the same time, the Legislature approved new legislation granting transit agencies and county ferry districts the opportunity to provide passenger ferry service supported by local tax sources. In 2006, the legislature announced that Washington State Ferries would discontinue Vashon passenger only ferry service and established grant funds to support the newly formed King County Ferry District’s operation of the Vashon route.

In 2004 Kitsap Transit negotiated joint development agreements with two private operators for passenger-only service from Bremerton and Kingston. Without a sustainable funding source, both services were unable to survive long enough to establish a competitive operating model and adequate ridership demand.

In 2008, the King County Ferry District assumed operation of the Vashon-Seattle passenger only route and the Elliot Bay Water Taxi. Supported through a countywide property tax, the Ferry District now contracts with the Marine Division of the King County Department of Transportation for county operated service on both of these routes.

Recently, the Port of Kingston has purchased two passenger only ferries and plans to recommence operation of passenger only service between Kingston and Seattle in the fall of 2010. The service plan and fare structure have not been announced but it is expected that two peak periods trips in both the morning and evening will be offered.

Kitsap Transit will initiate trial high-speed passenger ferry service between Bremerton and Seattle for six months beginning in Spring 2011using a new prototype high-speed low wake ferry. During this trial service period Kitsap Transit will evaluate both the impact of regular service with the low wake ferry on beaches along the route and the economic viability of various fare structures and service plans. At the conclusion of the trial period the feasibility of the proposed service model will be assessed.

POF Program Council Purpose:
MTAK recognizes that reliable, frequent passenger-only ferry service is a critical link in the Kitsap County transportation network and a key to enhancing the quality of life and economic well-being of Kitsap County residents. To be effective, passenger ferry service must be thoroughly integrated with existing and planned transportation systems within Kitsap County and around the Puget Sound, be supported by sustainable and balanced user and public funding and must be responsive to the needs of the riders and communities it serves. MTAK’s Passenger-Only Ferry Program Council will advocate for a passenger ferry service that addresses these needs. This Council will focus on:

  • Sustainable POF funding
  • Responsive service plans
  • Practical fares and convenient fare collection
  • Regional integration with other transportation services and local land use plans
  • Information dissemination and community involvement

Board Members:

Alice Tawresey, Chair
Walt Draper
Kathryn Quade
Scott Rhodes
Sonny Woodward

Updated June 15, 2012