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Missed connections irk foot ferry riders

The Carlisle II foot ferry unloads its passengers Friday in Port Orchard after arriving from Bremerton. - Aaron Burkhalter/Staff Photo
The Carlisle II foot ferry unloads its passengers Friday in Port Orchard after arriving from Bremerton.
— image credit: Aaron Burkhalter/Staff Photo

Last Wednesday when the 8:45 a.m. Washington State Ferries sailing from Seattle pulled into the Bremerton terminal, the Carlisle II was at the foot ferry dock, seemingly waiting patiently for the larger boat.

But just as the group of walk-on passengers began to unload and head to the smaller boat, the foot ferry pulled away from the dock — despite the service’s claim that the boats will wait up to five minutes before departing.

One of those frustrated passengers was Port Orchard resident Laura Pecoraro, who said she rides the foot ferry three times a week after arriving in Bremerton on the 8:45 a.m. boat.

And though that sailing should dock in time to catch the foot ferry, particularly if the smaller boat waits five minutes past its scheduled 9:45 a.m. departure, Pecoraro said the foot ferries have not been waiting lately.

“They were very good the first couple of years,” she said, explaining that she travels to Seattle regularly to volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Seattle, and has been riding both ferries for the past five years. “But for some reason, over the last six months they’ve stopped waiting.”

Pecoraro said missing a foot ferry in Bremerton doesn’t just mean a half-hour wait in the terminal, but she knows other passengers who have had to wait another hour to catch the bus they need.

She said when the same thing happened the previous week, a fellow passenger complained about the foot ferry not waiting.

Last week, Pecoraro decided to complain herself.

“If it wasn’t printed on the schedule that they wait, I wouldn’t say anything,” she said, explaining that she went to the Kitsap Transit information desk during her half-hour wait for the next foot ferry sailing, and was told to fill out a comment card. “The man there was very polite, and he said that filling out a comment card was the only way they could get the information to the captains on the boats.”

John Clauson, the service development director for Kitsap Transit, agreed that riders should fill out comment cards to let his agency staff know how its service is or isn’t meeting their needs.

“Let us know so we can follow up on it, and try and correct it so it doesn’t happen more often,” Clauson said.

Clauson confirmed that there there are particular foot ferry sailings during the day — including the 9:45 a.m. departure from Bremerton — that should, when possible, be waiting up to five minutes for a WSF boat to dock, and he was not aware of any change in that procedure.

Port Orchard City Councilman Fred Chang, who frequently depends on local ferries for transportation, said he understands Pecoraro’s frustration. Chang said the connections between the two services could definitely be improved, but also pointed out that there are myriad variables affecting the schedules.

For that particular connection — the 8:45 a.m. ferry from Seattle meeting the 9:45 a.m. ferry to Port Orchard — Chang surmised that the foot ferry may not be able to wait for the larger ferry to unload because it has to return to Port Orchard, pick up passengers, and depart again at 10 a.m. to deliver passengers in time for next departure to Seattle at 10:15 a.m.

“Especially since it was the Carlisle II, because that boat cannot cross as fast as the smaller boat on that service,” he said.

Clauson confirmed Chang’s theory, explaining that indeed the smaller boat, the Admiral Pete, can cross Sinclair Inlet in nearly half the amount of time it takes the Carlisle II.

Clauson said during the commute times in the morning and afternoon, the Admiral Pete is used for the service between Port Orchard and Bremerton to help with the connections, but during the day it is moved back to the run between Annapolis and Bremerton.

For the evening commute, Clauson said the ferry connections are definitely improved by the smaller boat, since the service is able to offer an extra 5:30 p.m. sailing instead of just the 5:15 p.m. and 5:45 p.m., because of the Admiral Pete’s faster speeds.

Right now, Clauson said his agency is evaluating its needs for that service to determine if it should buy another, smaller boat like the Admiral Pete.

“We are looking into it as we speak to see what we need in the way of additional vessels,” he said.

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