Foot-ferry plan would impose burden unfairly

Foot-ferry service from Kitsap to downtown Seattle, like a lot of luxuries, would be a grand thing to have. The question is at what cost? And to whom?

Up until now, passenger-only ferry service has been provided by Washington State Ferries. But as of this week, foot ferries are no longer part of the state fleet, leaving the door open for Kitsap Transit to move in — and it means to do so.

Kitsap Transit wants to operate, by means of a public-private partnership, passenger ferry service out of Bremerton and would expand service to Kingston and Southworth by late next year, once the state ceases running foot ferries out of Bremerton after Sept. 19.

The Kitsap Transit ferries would run directly to Seattle.

A second phase of service could be extended to Poulsbo, as voted by the Kitsap Transit Board last week — so long as the county’s voters approve Kitsap Transit’s plan, as well as the funding that supports it.

Voters will be asked to approve an increase in taxes in the Nov. 4 election.

For Kitsap Transit’s plan to work, Kitsap residents would pay a $60 license fee on vehicles valued at $20,000 and a sales tax of 3 cents on every local $10 purchase — except for food — in addition to revenues generated from fares.

In other words, there would be a three-tenths of 1 percent sales tax hike and a three-tenths of 1 percent increase on the local motor vehicle excise tax.

A number of local groups — most recently the Kitsap County Republican Party — have come out against the plan, while others, including the City of Port Orchard, support it.

After looking at all the pros and cons, we’re inclined to oppose the measure. Again, while passenger-only ferry service is a great thing, we don’t agree it should be funded by those who don’t use it — as would be the case under Kitsap Transit’s plan.

Backers of the concept insist the foot ferries will enhance economic development in Kitsap County, but that seems unlikley. Rather than bringing more people from Seattle to Kitsap, foot ferries will simply make it easier for Kitsap commuters to work in Seattle. And if that’s what they want, great. But we don’t see why the rest of the county should subsidize them.

There’s nothing wrong with fast ferries or the people who ride them. The issue is whether everyone who lives on this side of the pond derives enough benefit — or any benefit — from the service to justify being taxed to maintain it.

And as currently envisioned, the answer seems to be no.

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