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Foot ferry wins by popular acclaim

The public has spoken: Southworth will operate as a passenger-only terminal while the dock is being renovated next fall.

Although Washington State Ferries officials have only begun to sift through the 1,700 surveys returned on the subject, the clear winner has already emerged. Joel Colby, the main project engineer, said 55 percent of Southworth ferry riders preferred the passenger-only option. Only 12 percent liked the idea of a caravan of buses shuttling people back and forth to Bremerton’s ferry dock. Another 33 percent didn’t prefer either option, Colby said.

“I think the passenger-only service is going to go a long way in mitigating those people who can get out of their car and take the bus,” he added.

The passenger-only option will turn the Vashon dock into a hub of sorts — three routes will operate out of it. Apart from the passenger-only service from Southworth, a squadron of three car ferries and the regular fast-ferry will operate to downtown Seattle.

The Fauntleroy dock, normally the terminus of the Southworth-Vashon run, will be completely shut down for its own upgrades.

Colby said WSF is working out a separate solution for Kitsap commuters who use VanPool.

The alternate service will run the entire time the two docks are under construction next October. WSF currently estimates the repairs will take three weeks.

The fast-ferry will keep its normal rate structure during the special service. The Southworth passenger ferry and the Seattle-Vashon car ferry, however, will have fare structures similar to the ones currently in place between Southworth and Fauntleroy.

WSF officials are still working out how to keep everyone sorted into their separate fare categories as they change ferries at Vashon. There will be no direct service between Southworth and downtown Seattle. However, Colby said, passengers will be able to buy a single ticket in Southworth to get to Seattle, just as they now are able to.

Because the WSF passenger-only ferries are too small to handle the number of people who commute via Southworth every day, ferry officials are planning to use a regular car ferry as a modified passenger ferry. Colby pointed out that the car ferries can carry between 400 and 500 people — more than enough to handle Southworth traffic.

Although the Vashon ferries — both the car ferry and the fast-ferry — will operate on normal schedules, the Southworth ferry will operate only as a commuter ferry. The boat will run about every hour to hour and a half, but will not make any runs between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, its last run will be at 9:15 p.m. — more than four hours earlier than usual.

WSF engineers will be constructing a temporary passenger loading ramp on the Southworth dock, bypassing the areas which will be under construction. The end of the 174-foot ramp will just rest on the edge of the ferry’s car deck, Colby said, creating a passenger-loading system similar to the one currently in place at the Fauntleroy and Southworth docks.

The ramp itself will cost between $300,000 and $400,000 to build. The entire option, including extra ferry runs, will cost WSF approximately $1 million.

All the money will come out of WSF’s regular operating budget.

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