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It is inevitable that Kitsap County will join Sound Transit, with light rail reaching under Puget Sound to serve the current 266,000 residents, and likely 500,000 residents by 2040.

When ST3 is complete in 2041, the residents of King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties will be connected by rail, tram, and bus rapid transit from Everett to Tacoma out to Bellevue, Redmond, and Issaquah.  By then there will be more than 4 million people squeezed into those three counties, and the pressure to fit in more will no doubt spill across Puget Sound into Kitsap County.

Ferries make for a pleasant commute, but not a fast method of travel.  Unlike a light rail train, it takes up to 10 minutes to load and unload the Bainbridge-Seattle ferry, which turns a 35 minute rush-hour ride into a 50-60 minute journey, not counting the time to get to and from the ferry terminal.

This inconvenience is the main reason Kitsap County’s population is growing less than 1% per year, less than half the 2.5% rate of growth in King County.

The Bainbridge Island ferry terminal is only 8 miles from Colman Dock in downtown Seattle (as the seagull flies), and the Bremerton ferry terminal is just another 6.3 for that same seagull.  By car, those two terminals are 32 miles and 55 minutes apart.  By transit, Google suggests the fastest path is 90 minutes, hopping the ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle and switching to the new, fast ferry to Bremerton.

Meanwhile, when ST3’s East Link is done, the 6.3 miles (as the crow flies) between Downtown Bellevue and International District/Chinatown will take just 10 minutes.  Similarly, when ST3 finally reaches Ballard in 2035, the 7.3 mile trip from Ballard to Westlake center will take just 15 minutes, including stops in Interbay, Smith Cove, Seattle Center, and South Lake Union.

We can fix this commute time and open up Kitsap County to the inevitable population growth by adding Kitsap County to Sound Transit’s service, designing and digging a transit tunnel under Puget Sound.

Puget Sound is deep, more than 650 feet deep in the channel between Eagle Harbor and Elliot Bay.  But deep, underwater transit tunnels have been built in Japan, Norway, and most famously, under the English Channel.

It is only 6.3 miles from the Bainbridge Ferry Terminal to the future ST3 station at Smith Cove.  An ST3.5 line from there to Bainbridge Island and continuing underground to Bremerton would be a total of 12.6 miles long.

These are two communities that already have large number of public transit riders.  3.3 million foot passengers between Bainbridge Island an Seattle in 2017, plus another 1.7 million foot passengers between Bremerton and Seattle.  Because of that ridership, Kitsap County is well covered by Kitsap Transit’s bus system.

Connecting Kitsap County to Sound Transit is inevitable.  The question is not if, but when.  The key question is the cost of 12.6 miles of deep tunnels and two deep, underground stations.  But the alternative isn’t free.  The alternative is the cost of expanding and operating the ferry system to support the next 240,000 Kitsap County residents who want to reach King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties including SeaTac Airport and whatever high speed rail makes it to Seattle.

46 Replies to “When will Kitsap County join Sound Transit?”

  1. Where to begin. You’ll see Thurston County and Marysville in the ST district before Kitsap. The west sound rejected previous offers of bridges in order to prevent Bainbridge and from turning into another Bellevue and Kirkland — they like their semi-rural houses and small towns, than you very much. A cross-Sound tunnel would be the most expensive project ST has ever done, and who would pay for it? The Kitsap subarea certainly couldn’t, and the other subareas would not want to pay for what’s essentially Kitsap’s problem, or giving Kitsap a higher per-capita subsidy than they themselves have. Finally, adding exurban areas increases the percentage of No votes as you get a lot of drivers who don’t want to pay transit taxes, or who demand more investment per capital than their numbers or transit-friendly land use warrant. We’re already having that problem in southeast Pierce, and it’s a significant danger if we add Thurston County.

    1. My neighbors and I would absolutely revolt over a bridge or automobile tunnel that turned Bainbridge into another Mercer Island. The same would happen to anyone suggesting a second bridge off of Bainbridge to shorten the distance to Bremerton or Southworth, aiming to trade ferries for more cars and buses.

      But to suggest that it is reasonable to extend ST3 to Issaquah and then onward to Marysville before Bremerton and Kingston is odd. Bremerton is an urban city, with sideways, a grid of streets, working mass transit, and an industrial center.

      The proposal isn’t to put a train station in Seabeck or Hansville. It’s to replace an expensive, inefficient, slow WSDOT transit solution with one that is faster, cheaper (in the long run), and better. A mass transit run that is today more popular than the projected ridership from Issaquah in 2040.

      The pushback on cost is reasonable to ask, but y’all over in ST counties are already paying for our ferries, just as we’re paying for I-5, I-405, the floating bridges, etc. By the time ST3 is complete, we’ll need to replace the three Mark II ferries and put all the replacements on the Seattle/Bainbridge run. Given the latest ferries were over $100M each, and half the size of our ferries, the question is whether to pay $1B for floating steel or about that much for another solution.

      1. Issaquah & Marysville are contiguous with the Seattle metro area, Bremerton is not.

        The right comp for the $100M ferry replacement would be the $100M cost of buying the rolling for this new tunnel (bus or train), not the $1B cost of a new tunnel. Either way, we need to buy new vehicles. So, do we buy vehicles and no tunnel, or vehicles and a very expensive tunnel.

        Building a new tunnel is at least one order of magnitude more expensive than ferry replacements. It’s not comparable.

  2. A cross-sound tunnel would likely be a WSDOT project, not Sound Transit (even if ST operates the transit service in the tunnel) – the magnitude of the investment needed would be beyond the scope of Sound Transit. We are talking about a tunnel double the length of the new downtown tunnel, in a much more difficult environment.

    More importantly, I don’t think Kitsap is interested in the level of growth needed to justify this tunnel. I think we are on the right track – we are investing in better ferries and feeder bus service on the Kitsap side, and a new ferry terminal and better transfers from terminal on the Seattle side (both the CCC streetcar & Madison BRT will improve transfers from the terminal).

    Mike is right – I don’t see the appeal of adding a vast amount of rural land to ST’s service territory. It’s a far better idea to push growth around our existing investments than to spend money chasing growth where it is not.

    1. Also, look at the examples given in that wiki article. They are either connecting major existing urban centers, or they are connecting islands that don’t have another access to the mainland. Kitsap isn’t an island, it’s a peninsula. Bainbridge already has a bridge

    2. What I very much appreciate about ST3 is that it wasn’t a 5 year or 10 year proposal. The last of the projects are planned for completion in 2041. That is 24 years of planning, an unheard of level of foresight in today’s society.

      24 years from now, like it or not, there will be more people in Kitsap County. Projections are 500,000 people, almost double today’s population. (

      I don’t know anyone out here looking forward to that. I can’t imagine how any fix to SR305 is going to handle the traffic. Yesterday had a 3 hour wait for driving on the ferry. Who is going to want to come out here when it’s a 5 hour wait to get back?!

      At the same time, who in Seattle is looking forward to 1 million+ people living in the city, 3+ million in King County, and 6+ million in the metropolitan area?

      1. Seems like it would be a lot cheaper to build some bus (HOV?) lanes on SR305, including a new Agate bridge, to feed people to the existing ferry terminal. Or, build a train that runs on land (much cheaper) that terminates at the ferry terminal, like SMART will do with their extension connecting the SMART train with the Golden Gate Larkspu ferry terminal for travel onward to SF.

        The problem of increase congestion is a problem within Kitsap County, not a problem with congestion between Kitsap & King. Creating a train station on Bainbridge would actually make congestion on SR305 worse, not better, because of induced demand (unless you want to completely remove the car ferry).

        If you are worried about transportation problems within Kitsap getting worse as population grows, connecting Kitsap directly to Seattle will surely make those problem worse.

  3. While ferries are expensive to operate, since they carry cars, they are eligible for highway funds collected from gas tax, which is a huge pot of money, not available to transit (and can never be available to transit, without an amendment to the state constitution). To build and operate an entire train tunnel across Puget Sound, using only transit dollars, is simply impossible, without radical improvements to tunneling technology.

    As stated by previous comments, Kitsap has no money to pay for it, Seattle sure isn’t going to pay for it, and WSDOT is constitutionally prohibited from paying for it, unless it carries cars. And, the people on Kitsap don’t want it anyway, because it would turn their quiet communities into solid sprawl.

    The existing greater Seattle area can host a ton more people than it does, simply by upzoning the single-family home areas. This needs to happen long before we start contemplating a tunnel under the sound to enable more sprawl on the other side.

    1. I think a bus-only tunnel would be constitutional. Everything I’ve heard about the prohibition has been about rail, and it goes back to the populist reaction against the robber-baron railroad monopolies, as well as the desire to subsidize the road infrastructure. There could be an argument that a bus tunnel resembles a rail line too closely, because buses go into it and race straight to the other end without encumberance from cars, like trains do on a track. But there never has been a state bus tunnel proposal so it’s unclear how the legal interpretations would play out. However, it would be slapped down politically long before that, for spending so much money on something without any car access.

  4. If the main goal of this proposal would be to speed up travel time to downtown Seattle, I think any judgement should wait a few years and see how the Fast Ferries they are implementing play out in the long run (5-10 yrs).

  5. Maybe this is the opposite of click-bait. A reasonable, sensible headline followed by a ridiculous article.

    Have Kitsap County join Sound Transit? Sure, why not. The whole point of Sound Transit is to provide transit service between counties. Better transit between Pierce and Kitsap County would make a lot of sense.

    But build a subway under the Sound, to serve Bainbridge Island and Bremerton? Absolutely ridiculous.

    Sorry for the harsh words, but that is just a crazy idea. I understand why you might think it has merit, though. Sound Transit has suggested — if not outright stated — that every transit problem can be solved with light rail.

    But it doesn’t work that way. Building subways (whether for light or heavy rail) is extremely expensive. Kitsap County may have 300,000 people, and may see that number grow to 500,000, but it doesn’t mean they should have their own subway. Kansas has almost 3 million people, yet there is no statewide Kansas subway (as cool as that would be).

    Building subways only make sense when you have lots and lots of trips within a relatively small area (and alternatives are substantially slower or more expensive). By “trips”, I don’t mean just “parts of trips” — I mean the whole thing. So the fact that I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass might be crowded on a holiday weekend, for example, doesn’t mean that the answer is building a subway there. People are traveling from way too many places to way too many places to make that work.

    In general, trips of this nature occur when you have high density areas close to each other. In other words, proximity plus density equals high ridership. There are exceptions*, but that is pretty much it.

    The problem is, you don’t have that in Kitsap County. A look at the census map ( shows only one census block over 10,000 people per square mile (in an area outside of Silverton). In contrast, Seattle has too many blocks of that size to count. They also have dozens of census blocks over 25,000 people per square mile, and at least one over 100,000. Oh, and Seattle is growing faster than the suburbs (and that likely includes Kitsap County). You would have to have an enormous growth spurt — concentrated in one particular region — just to approach what Seattle has. To get to the levels of North Vancouver, or Staten Island would be particularly difficult.

    Then there is the problem of proximity as well as cost. You have proposed two stops, for a line that would be about 13 miles long. Even if this on a barren landscape it would be an extremely bad value. But Puget Sound makes it all the more ridiculous. This would be an extremely expensive 13 mile subway with only two stops. The most popular Oakland stop on BART has under 15,000 riders. This is on a network that connects to other stations in the East Bay (although not as many as it should) and carries tens of thousands across the bay. Do you really think that Bremerton or Bainbridge will somehow resemble downtown Oakland soon? If so, do you think that ridership of those stations will somehow be much bigger? How many people do you expect to ride this thing? If it gets 30,000 people (which is being extremely generous) it would likely be the most expensive transit project per rider in North America. To even come close to being a good value you would have to have ridership much higher — probably as high as any in the U. S. That is just unrealistic — Bremerton is not Times Square.

    Staten Island has almost half a million people and is roughly the same overall density as Seattle. The census blocks look fairly similar ( Yet there is no subway from there to Manhattan, despite being closer than the distance between Bainbridge and Seattle. There already is an old, existing rail line across the island, yet they don’t continue it to the economic center of the world, where 4 million people work. Yet you think that we should build a subway from Bremerton to Interbay? You are being silly.

    Yes, I realize that the ferries can be annoying. They aren’t that fast, and if you arrive early, you have to wait for everyone else to board. But it really isn’t that bad — as thousands of people in places like Staten Island and North Vancouver Island can attest. The ferries could be a lot more frequent, but that will likely happen if demand grows. Meanwhile, bus service could improve as well (which will likely happen if density increases). But building a 13 mile subway to Seattle (with only two new stops) is just not going to happen.

    * The only exception to the “proximity + density = ridership” rule I can think of is Calgary. To a certain extent, it still follows the rule, but with employment density, not population density. Calgary light rail is very popular in large part because of trips to downtown. Just about all the office jobs are there (unlike typical cities, which have office parks spread everywhere) and they charge a lot for parking. That means that unless you want to spend big bucks, it is the best way to get downtown. Calgary also has lots of people downtown, in a stretch where taking the light rail would make sense (and is free). So it is possible that a substantial part of the ridership comes from just within the tiny urban core.

    1. Staten Island is a good comp on why this is a bad idea. Focusing on getting people to/from the ferry terminals faster (on both sides), not replacing the ferry.

      1. Turns out there have been numerous attempts at connecting Staten Island to the subway (or commuter train) network, including one tunnel that sits partially done. Some of these attempts date back 100 years.

        Meanwhile, Staten Island is connected to the rest of NYC with the Verrazano Narrow’s Bridge, built back in 1959, about the same time Bainbridge Island got the Agate Pass Bridge. The difference being that the Verrazano was at that time the longest suspension bridge on the planet and carrying an interstate highway.

        Thus Staten Island is more akin to Kirkland than Bainbridge. Kirkland has the Evergreen floating bridge and I-405 connecting it to the metropolitan area. The ferry is just a shortcut to Manhattan and a red herring in this analogy.

      2. >> The ferry is just a shortcut to Manhattan

        Just like our ferries! Yet thousands upon thousands of people rely on the Staten Island ferry, and they still haven’t built a subway. Because — obviously — it is expensive. This to connect to a borough that has more jobs than Seattle ever will to an island that has more people per square mile than Kitsap County ever will and already has a railroad with 21 stops that runs right to the edge of the island. I really wonder if you get these key points. There really aren’t that many people in Kitsap County per area yet you are using county wide populations as the basis for your argument. All of this is pretty easy to access (via Wikipedia). Here, let me spare you the trouble:

        Staten Island: 479,458 — 8,112 people per square mile
        Seattle: 724,745 — 8,398 people per square mile
        Hoboken: 50,005 — 39,212 people per square mile
        Kitsap County 266,414 — 644 people per square mile
        Bremerton 40,500 — 1,328.0 per square mile
        Bainbridge Island 23,840 — 833.9 per square mile

        Got that? Staten Island has more than ten times as many people per area. Ten Times! Even if Kitsap County doubled, it would be tiny compared to Staten Island. You seem to have missed my comparison with Kansas. The only reason that Kitsap County has so many people is because — like Kansas — it is huge. The county is 566 square miles. Nor it the case that Kitsap County happens to have a handful of extremely densely populated areas, with farms surrounding it. It is the opposite — it is a very large area with nothing resembling urban density anywhere. Even the most urban area in the entire county (Bremerton) just doesn’t have that many people in one place. It could double or even triple in size and it would be small compared to most Seattle neighborhoods.

        Nor is that the way that Kitsap County will likely grow. Oh, I’m sure that Bremerton will grow, but you also have places like Poulsbo, Silverton and dozens upon dozens of unincorporated areas that will likely see growth. Yet this overall growth — in the entire county — is how you are justifying this crazy scheme — that because the county is growing, we should build a multi-billion dollar underwater subway line containing two stops. Two Stops!

        Look, I brought up Staten Island just to point out how ridiculous your idea is. It just isn’t cheap to build subway lines across the water, even when the benefits would be huge. But if you prefer a comparison with Hoboken, I’m cool with that. Holy smoke, Hoboken has sixty times the density or the county. Sixty! It is still about thirty times the density of Bremerton (the most urban city in Kitsap County).

        Look again at Staten Island and its ferry. The schedule is pretty simple — every half hour, day and night, all day long (except holidays). Oh, and it is free. Does Bremerton or Bainbridge have that kind of service? No, of course not. That is because there are way fewer people.

        Look, if you want to argue for better passenger ferry service, join the choir (I’ll be the one singing loudly, if a bit off key). If you want to push for better connecting bus service, again — I’m with you 100%. But an underwater subway? Sorry, but that is just silly.

      3. The density argument for Kitsap County is a red herring. The residents are already finding a way to the Bainbridge and Bremerton ferry terminals, despite the lack of density. 5 million walk-on ferry passengers per year. That is an average of 13,500 boardings per day, vs. an average of 70,000 for the whole Link network (

        In comparison, the PATH network serves seven stations in NJ, from Newark to Hoboken. 283,000 boardings per weekday. 5 million per month. ( But note that this isn’t a system built in the 2000’s or even the late 1900’s. The first of the multiple PATH tunnels was started in 1873 ( The population of New York City that year was under 1 million ( and the population of Newark, NJ was less than 250,000 (,_New_Jersey). Those stats are not much different from Seattle and Kitsap County today.

        145 years from now, do we want to look back and question why we spent billions of dollars for three sets of replacement ferries, the latest holding 500 cars and taking a half hour to load/unload (because crew is too expensive to have smaller boats), or would we like our great great grandchildren to thank us for planning for the future and digging a pair of tunnels that are still in use, still making that trip just 20 minutes?

      4. Since when is population density a red herring? Holy cow, it is arguably the most important predictor of ridership. You can totally screw up the network, have the vehicles stuck in traffic, and yet still get good ridership if you manage to go through a densely populated area. Muni Metro, in San Fransisco, is a great example of this. More riders use it than ride BART, despite the average speeds being extremely slow, while BART is very fast and provides a key connection in the region (cross bay travel).

        As for the subways being built years ago — that is one of my points. No one is building a subway like this, because they are extremely expensive. Even in areas that have way more in the way of potential ridership, they aren’t building them. I wish it was as easy to build subways as it used to be, but it isn’t.

        As for 13,500 boardings per day, that is tiny. Seriously, that is less than 10,000 per terminal. Unlike other proposed subways, you aren’t likely to get more than that if you build a subway. You will get some relatively spontaneous trips, but not that many, because there really is not a substitute right now. In other words, if you are on Bainbridge and want to get to downtown Seattle, then of course you take the ferry. So at best you are talking about maybe 15,000 riders a day. But let’s be generous, and assume double that. OK, that means that each station would exceed all of the current stations in Link (higher than the UW, higher than any downtown stop).

        That is still a ridiculously expensive project. 13 miles of rail line underneath Puget Sound, with two (presumably very expensive and deep) stations, to carry 30,000 people? That is a horrible value. You can just randomly pick a spot in Seattle and come up with something better. You could build a Metro 8 subway, and a Ballard to UW subway for about the same amount. Either line would of course carry way more people than that.

        Even the maintenance cost of that system would is dubious. 13 miles of track underneath the ocean for only 30,000 riders a day? That is a huge money loser now, or 145 years from now.

        Look, I get it — the ferries aren’t as good as we wish they were. We should push for better passenger ferry service. It would be great if Bremerton or Bainbridge had service as good as Vallejo, let alone Staten Island or North Vancouver. But there are dozens upon dozens of projects in Seattle that are better values than a Puget Sound subway. Most will never be built (because we blew a bunch of money on things like Issaquah to South Kirkland). Rather than obsess over pie and sky plans, we should improve the ferries as well as the transit system *within* Kitsap county.

      5. Did you include the cost of one parking space per daily commuter on this hypothetical train, at around $100,000 per space?

    2. Your argument might be reasonable if there were not already a large, expensive, public transit system serving Bainbridge Island and Bremerton.

      What you seem to be missing in your census analysis is the fact that these are two cities which for decades have been focused on feeding residents from tens of miles away to two public transit stations. That infrastructure already exists.

      I’ve no idea why Staten Island doesn’t have a train. Hoboken has the PATH, which runs into both midtown and downtown Manhattan.

      I’m totally fine with a Kitsap to King train that ends next to an ST station rather than integrating the systems. That seems utterly wasteful, but its equivalent of the system we have today, with the whole state subsidizing the ferries, followed by a 10 minute walk to Pioneer Square Station to catch the trains that y’all are paying for without us.

      And yes, I’m not doubting this tunnel would be expensive. I’m questioning why running tracks out to Issaquah are not similarly questioned as too suburban and too wasteful. And causing too much sprawl into the Cascades. The same trees and animals grow there as on the peninsula.

      1. I’m questioning why running tracks out to Issaquah are not similarly questioned as too suburban and too wasteful. And causing too much sprawl into the Cascades.

        Were you reading this blog during the ST3 project selection? It definitely was questioned, loudly and repeatedly. I’d still be willing to fight that battle if it might make the least bit of difference.

        But running tracks to Kitsap would be worse, because the tunnel would be more expensive.

      2. “I’m questioning why running tracks out to Issaquah are not similarly questioned as too suburban and too wasteful. And causing too much sprawl into the Cascades. The same trees and animals grow there as on the peninsula.”

        Because the connection from Bellevue to Issaquah is ON LAND. Most of the line will be elevated, which is much cheaper than tunneling, and way way way way way cheaper than tunneling 700 feet below sea level through soils that are waterlogged with saltwater 100% of the time.

        It’s a matter of cost versus benefit. The benefit of rapid transit to Bremerton is pretty damn good, but the cost is so astronomical, that it just won’t even pan out. Issaquah may be a lower benefit, but it is also way cheaper to serve.

      3. Issaquah is already in the urban growth boundary – the station is intended to serve a PSRC regional growth center, not further sprawl. Channeling growth into the Issaquah valley floor should not drive sprawl, as long as UGA is enforced.

        Also, Issaquah is like 15 minutes from downtown Bellevue – it’s not in the hinterlands. I would oppose building rail to, say, Snoqualmie.

        “I’ve no idea why Staten Island doesn’t have a train. Hoboken has the PATH,” – geography. PATH goes under a river and is 4x closes to downtown. Staten Island has a deep harbor between it and NYC … any rail connection would likely go through Jersey.

        If this was an SAT question:
        Hoboken & Hudson River : Staten Island & NYC harbor :: Bainbridge & Puget Sound : Bellevue & Lake Washington

      4. Ugh, I reversed my SAT analogy. Corrected:
        Hoboken & Hudson River : Staten Island & NYC harbor :: Bellevue & Lake Washington : Bainbridge & Puget Sound

      5. >> I’ve no idea why Staten Island doesn’t have a train.

        Because it is freaking expensive! Of course it is. Of course you would have more riders for that little line than you have on all of Link. But that doesn’t mean it is a good value. Spending that much money for that many people just doesn’t make sense when the ferries are doing just fine, and there are lots and lots of better projects out there.

        >> I’m questioning why running tracks out to Issaquah are not similarly questioned as too suburban and too wasteful.

        Of course they are too wasteful. Running tracks to Issaquah is one of the stupidest things this stupid agency has ever done. It is ridiculous, and the ridicule it has received has not been limited to local blogs (like this one) but to national ones ( The problem with your proposal is that it is more ridiculous that ST3. You are proposing spending more money on an area with less density and fewer stops.

        You are proposing 13 miles of new track (give or take), under Puget Sound (!), with only two stops! First of all, how much do you think this will cost? More importantly, how many people with this project serve? Seriously, what is your estimate? Remember, there are only two stops, and right now, our most popular station (in downtown) has only about 12,000 people. Just how many do you expect will ride this boondoggle awesome underwater subway?

        While we are at it, please tell what other areas of the country (or the world, for that matter) have built anything similar?

      6. @Glenn — We both meant a train to Manhattan, not a train on Staten Island. I mentioned the train on the island as an example of how wonderful it would be if they could connect it to Manhattan (lots and lots of one seat rides to a major employment center). But there is no train between Manhattan and Staten Island, because projects like that are extremely expensive, and there are better values (there and elsewhere).

    3. >> Since when is population density a red herring? Holy cow, it is arguably the most important predictor of ridership. <<

      I'm in total agreement, for predicting ridership in a neighborhood where transit is new. If we were discussing a Kitsap Airport to compete with SeaTac, then density of Kitsap, Mason, Jefferson, and Clammam would be relevant. The same if we were talking about putting the NBA basketball stadium over here. But in this case it's a red herring because we have a highly accurate count of existing public transit riders. Per month. Per route.

      What you don't understand is that the transit time from Kitsap to Seattle does very much impact that ridership. I don't commute into the city on days when I have just one hour-long meeting, as the round trip time to do that is a minimum of four hours. Similarly, it's a big deal for a couple to go to dinner in Seattle, as that too is a 4-5 hour round trip. Mariners, Seahawks, and Sounders games are either all day events, or we get home at midnight for evening games.

      Drop the transit time in half and no doubt the ridership will go up. That, and as I keep pointing out, projections for the Kitsap population in 2040 are 500,000, just about double today, equal to today's population of Staten Island. Add in a faster route to Seattle and make commuting to Bellevue reasonable, and Bremerton could easily grow to be the size of Everett, with commuters traveling in both directions.

      And yes, tunneling is expensive. But again, so are ferries, and so are ferry terminals. Given an analysis showing a 100 year cost within a factor of two or three in price, I expect most Kitsap residents would pick the tunnel option, both as a vote as well as ticket buyers on the train. If instead that analysis said the tunnel was 10x more expensive, include the lovely subsidy we get from our fellow WA residents, this dream can wait until the next wave of big, federally funded projects are being sought.

      For a great example of such a project, lookup the history of the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, as you like population density, note that Marin County has the same population as Kitsap but is almost twice the size. Why then do we have a bridge crossing the Golden Gate? Especially why do we have that when there instead used to be a perfectly good ferry system for commuters?

      1. But there is still no rail transit line that parallels the Golden Gate Bridge, because it would be too expensive for too few riders.

        Sprawl based development is only really served by highways, which is why anything beyond the ferry will have to be a road bridge.

      2. Also, the Golden Gate connects San Francisco to the entire northern California coast. The Kitsap peninsula is a literal dead end – besides, it already has a bridge.

      3. Actually, Marin County and Kitsap County have almost identical populations of around 261K!

        Of course the SF Bay is a shallow estuary compared to Puget Sound. Sonoma Cointy is also more populous at 502K. Plus there is great bus service subsidized by toll bridge revenue.

        Perhaps the radical idea should be to create a regional ferry and transit agency by merging WSF with Sound Transit. That would accomplish all sorts of things — refocusing ST to make operating more important than building, creating a mindset for addressing awful rail-ferry connections, and motivating more fast ferries to meet a systems bed.

        Maybe that idea could even result in an elected board!

  6. A much more viable and near-term alternative would seem to be to build ferries that can carry transit vehicles, enabling a rapid departure or unloading in Kitsap County.

    For buses, this almost appears immediately doable. The routes would need to be branded as such, but as long as the boat was laid out for this, it could work well. I’m not enough of an expert on ferry loading to get how exactly this would happen. At most, new replacement ferries and feeder buses could be designed with this capability. Driver schedules could be set up for drivers to change buses each time it arrives, and have a free-fare zone monitored by fare enforcement on the boat.

    It would also be perhaps more easy to implement a driverless shuttle system now being introduced around the world onto a ferry boat. While on the ferry, anyone wanting to use a shuttle could simply define what destination that they want to reach, and then the ferry rider can be assigned to a particular driverless shuttle to complete the trip (software determining optimum routes based on the requested trips). When headed to the ferry, registering ones arrival at a stop could provide a rider with real-time arrival indicator. Of course, the shuttles today run at only 20 mph so that doesn’t really address a long travel time issues in Kitsap but it could be effective for destinations of less than 2 miles.

    I have seen boats actually carry rail cars. However, the heavy engines may have to be separated from the cars when boarding (taking a few more minutes), and the weight distribution of rail is more challenging than that of buses.

    One additional challenge to do this is to actually connect it to Link. Link never has been designed to reach any ferry terminal easily. There are solutions — moving sidewalks to a Link station, extending a streetcar to go all the way to the current ferry terminal to allow for a load-and-go system, moving or adding a ferry terminal to connect better (like at Smith Cove) — but none seem to be profoundly better than the current arrangement on the Seattle side of the Sound. I’ll also note that the SLU segment of the Ballard line will have much more demand than just from Ballard and Interbay so a branch to a Smith Cove ferry terminal is possible — but there are many more branches that would seem to be more productive (like up Aurora from SLU, or extending both east and north from Ballard).

    A Smith Cove to Bainbridge fast ferry would however seem to take much less than time than the ferry trip today (posted at 35 minutes). The fast ferry option would almost rival the speed of light rail (probably about 20 minutes for a fast ferry compared to 7 to10 minutes for a light rail line) at a significantly lower cost if the transfer hassles and time penalties are minimized. That Link station won’t open until 2035 at the earliest so there is plenty of time to plan for that.

    As far as the ambitious light rail line extension vision goes, I don’t see it happening here. It’s not like the East Coast or the San Francisco Bay where the bathymetry (underwater topography) is shallow so that tubes can be dropped and anchored to the bottom with sand. The only practical engineering solution would be to put in a floating bridge that goes up and down with the tides and supports the weight distribution of rail, which is a very hard thing to do; or somehow construct a suspension bridge with supports going hundreds of feet deep into the water, which is also a very hard thing to do.

    I realize that 500,000 people in the future sounds like a lot of people, but serving them regionally is probably just not going to be as productive of a capital investment as serving 500,000 in the 167 corridor (Renton, Kent, Auburn), the North Snohomish/Skagit/Whatcom corridor or the Lakewood/Thurston corridor.

    1. >> “For buses, this almost appears immediately doable.”

      Metro already does this with the few peak-hour trips on routes 118 and 119 that directly connect Vashon Island with downtown Seattle. All the other trips are timed to meet the ferry.

      1. That is really where it makes sense. The same is true for Kingston/Edmonds. In both cases, both the start and end are fairly remote.

        But that isn’t the case with the downtown ferries. They drop people off in the heart of things. There are bus connections close by, and I’m sure a substantial number of people just walk to their destination. The connection to Link could be better along with the connection to the buses. But it really isn’t terrible. It really isn’t worth the effort (and cost) of putting the buses on the ferry.

    2. Timed transfers work really well if everything is set up to work. Island Transit to the ferry at Clinton is usually pretty good, with the driver calling the ferry terminal to let them know how far away the bus is.

      Kitsap Transit does ok at the Bainbridge terminal sometimes.

      Streetcar and interurban trains on ferries did happen in some locations. However, most places figured out how to make timed transfers work at both ends or built a bridge or tunnel.

    3. >> I realize that 500,000 people in the future sounds like a lot of people, but serving them regionally is probably just not going to be as productive of a capital investment as serving 500,000 in the 167 corridor (Renton, Kent, Auburn), the North Snohomish/Skagit/Whatcom corridor or the Lakewood/Thurston corridor. <<

      If time is important to commuters, and all studies I've seen say it is, then your economics are flipped, as a high-speed from Auburn or Skagit will cost a lot more than a tunnel and subway to Bremerton, both taking 20 minutes to downtown.

      1. The cost to build a train route from Auburn to Seattle is … zero. It already exists. You can get from Auburn to King Street in 34 minutes, every weekday.

    4. >> I realize that 500,000 people in the future sounds like a lot of people,

      It really doesn’t. That is the whole problem with this idea (well, that and the obvious lack of stops and extremely high cost). Idaho added about 500,000 people in the last twenty years — Time to build a huge subway! Seriously though, it is about density, and Kitsap County just doesn’t have it. Nor is it even close.

    5. Buses on the ferry seems like overkill for the ferries that serve downtown. As mentioned, using faster passenger ferries would likely save more time. The connection to Link is not good, but the connection to buses isn’t bad, and that will get better (with service on First and Madison BRT).

      My guess is the worst problem in general are the headways. The North Vancouver to Vancouver ferry runs every 15 minutes. The Staten Island ferry runs every half hour. The Vallejo ferry runs every half hour towards San Fransisco in the morning, then slowly transitions to about every hour. That is still quite a bit better (at least for commuters) than the current schedule.

      As you mentioned, fast ferries (like the one in Vallejo) would also help a lot. Since there is still an all day demand for car ferries, the two can complement each other. Run the fast ferries often during rush hour, with the understanding that if you miss one outside of rush hour, at least there isn’t a really long wait for the next regular ferry.

      Better ferry headways and more passenger only ferries helps the bus interaction situation as well.
      A regular car ferry spends a lot of time at the dock (it takes a lot longer to load and unload cars than it does people). If the bus arrives when the ferry gets there, it is great for those getting off the ferry and about to take a bus. But the folks who get off the bus have a long wait until the boat moves. If you arrive right before the boat leaves, it is the opposite. With passenger ferries, this is less of an issue. With more ferries in general, this is less of an issue, as you can just have two different buses. One arrives and lets people off just before the ferry leaves, then does a layover until the next ferry arrives. Or with the case of a passenger ferry, you don’t worry about it, because it doesn’t take that long.

      Regardless of the particulars, we should be talking about a lot more ferry service, and a lot faster ferries long before we ever contemplate a subway line across the Sound.

      1. I don’t think buses on ferries make much sense, period, except in very limited cases, as that would mean tying up the bus and the driver during the entire ferry journey, when the bus is just sitting there, not moving. You can get much better frequency at each end if you have separate buses on each end picking up and dropping off passengers at the ferry terminal.

        However, the timed connection idea is not always a panacea, either. By the time the passengers have walked to the bus stop and boarded the bus, the cars have already started unloading, and if the ferry staff doesn’t give the bus priority merging into traffic, the bus will have to wait for the entire ferry to unload before it can proceed, plus deal with the artificially heavy traffic for the first mile or so resulting from the 200 or so cars that got off the same ferry. The result is unpredictable delays which can make the bus frustrating to use for locals getting on at other stops, who aren’t going anywhere near the ferry.

        If the bus rides the ferry, it can at least get priority loading, so it’s one of the first vehicles off (I think WSDOT already supports this for vanpools during commute hours, and the bus would certainly qualify). Then, the first stop after getting off the ferry has to be far enough up the road for traffic to thin out – otherwise, the bus would have to lose its place in line to serve the stop and, again, get stuck behind all the other cars coming off the same boat.

        Of course, if buses could have dedicated lanes on the roads coming out of the ferry, none of this would matter. But, in a world where they don’t, I can see people demand a premium service where the bus rides the ferry – even if it results in a vastly highly taxpayer subsidy per trip – even if means midday service gets cut to the bone to pay for premium service during rush hour.

      2. Coming off the ferry is nowhere near as bad as arriving. The traffic backup at Bremerton in the morning is walking speed terrible for miles back. It’s a symptom of having a set of large highways, which encourage transit-hostile sprawl, to end at a ferry terminal. There’s no good way to get buses to get feeder service for such a huge, sparse area.

        Getting off, you at least have some moderation provided by local traffic lights and the fact the boats can only hold about 200 or so standard size cars. Also, as the boat gets lighter they have to adjust the ramp every so often to match the increased height, so they can’t all come off too quickly.

  7. This is way off base. See this recent CityLab article on costs of subway tunnels, and note that these were at nowhere near the depth required to go under the Sound. A tunnel under the Sound would cost a bare minimum of $1B per mile. That’s at least $8B just to get to Bainbridge, i.e. about $328,000 per resident of Bainbridge, or just under $31,000 per resident if you count all of Kitsap County.

    The English Channel tunnel (of comparable depth) cost over $21B in early 1990’s dollars, which is closer to $40B in 2018 dollars. It connects the UK’s 65+ million residents to mainland Europe. Kitsap County has 0.26 million residents, or about one third of one percent as many.

    1. For this reason a series of bridges from West Seattle to Vashon to Port Orchard and then Bremerton is probably more likely, if it ever comes to a non-ferry link. It will probably be a highway though.

    2. And yet Bertha’s tunnel was far less than $1B per mile, despite its size, and the duel tunnels from Westlake through Capital Hill, under UW and up to Roosevelt were also far less than $1B per mile.

      Maybe the bottom of Puget Sound is solid rock and this idea completely infeasible. Maybe it’s the same soft material as what Bertha dug through (some of which dug under the old coastline of Puget Sound) and which the latest ST tunnel has dug through. I’ve not seen a study on that yet.

      1. The problem isn’t the material at the bottom, but the depth.

        Straight out of downtown Seattle, Elliott Bay is 100-200 feet or more in depth. See map:

        You’d need to start the tunnel in Madrona and serve downtown Seattle with an elevator bank.

        You could make it all work, but it would be difficult to make it all pencil out.

  8. Kitsap joining Sound Transit?

    Well, maybe if a chunk of the tax revenue goes to better ferries. And transit connections to Tacoma.

    1. The nearly nonexistent transit connections from Bremerton and Port Orchard to Gig Harbor and Tacoma are probably the most overlooked regional transit need for Kitsap County. The Bremerton-to-Tacoma route was served for decades by private carriers and Kitsap Transit continued to contract it out for several years into the ’80s. About 10 percent of the Kitsap County employment commute pattern is to Pierce County. For residents of Bremerton southward, Tacoma is a significant outlet for professional services, shopping, and cultural events not available in Kitsap County.

  9. More of east and north Snohomish county and east king county will probably join ST first (Marysville, Arlington Snohomish Monroe, Duvall, etc)

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