It’s been a good year for several of the local ferry-running agencies. They’ve been blooming with the replacement of their fleets while also implementing and planning new service. Here’s a brief recap of what has happened over the summer and fall with a bit of background for context.
King County Ferry District (KCFD)
All-American Marine, a ferry builder based in Bellingham, has begun work on the construction of two passenger-only catamarans for KCFD. The new vessels will be able to carry 250 seated passengers indoors and 26 bicycles on deck. This is a significant increase from the current fleet, which consists of two boats: the MV Melissa Ann (serving the Seattle-Vashon route) and MV Spirit of Kingston (serving the Seattle-West Seattle route). The Melissa Ann can serve up to 172 passengers and 18 bicycles while the Spirit of Kingston has a capacity of up to 147 passengers and 16 bicycles.
The new vessels being built will be more efficient to operate due to wider doors for access and reduced fuel consumption. While no new sailings will be added with the introduction of the vessels to service, the boats will increase capacity per sailing. The Vashon run very often sails close to capacity, so increased capacity will hopefully lead to many fewer passengers being turned down for service.
Upon arrival of the new ferries in Fall 2015, the Melissa Ann will be returned to Four Seasons Marine (her owners) while the Spirit of Kingston will remain in County ownership. The new ferry to serve the Vashon run will be called Sally Fox, which is being named in honor of a late Vashon passenger-only ferry advocate. Meanwhile, the new West Seattle vessel will be called Doc Manyard, named after Seattle’s famed pioneer.
Washington State Ferries (WSF)
WSF is in the process of replacing their aging Evergreen State-class ferry fleet with new Olympic-class ferries. Three Evergreen State-class ferries have reached the ripe old age of 60, the end of their service lives. Evergreen State-class ferries have a capacity of 1,092 passengers and 87 vehicles. Of course, the Evergreen State-class ferries are dwarfed by the shiny new Olympic-class ferries, which have a capacity of up to 1,500 passengers and 144 vehicles.
Earlier this year, the MV Tokitae, a new Olympic-class ferry, entered service on the Mukilteo-Clinton route. Two more ships of this class are planned to be deployed over the next 3 years. The MV Samish is currently under construction by Vigor Industrial based out of Seattle. This new vessel is expected to enter service sometime in Spring 2015. The route for which the ferry will sail has not yet been revealed. However, it is assumed that both the Seattle-Bremerton route and San Juan Islands are candidates for this ferry. And just last month, WSF officially named the third new Olympic-class ferry as the MV Chimacum. The Chimacum will enter service in 2017.
As we reported in July, Kitsap Transit is looking to provide passenger-only ferry service from Seattle to Kitsap County. Routes previously under consideration were Seattle-Southworth, Seattle-Bremerton, and Seattle-Kingston. Kitsap Transit has selected Seattle-Bremerton as the preferred route. The route between Seattle-Bremerton currently takes about an hour each way. However, a passenger-only ferry would greatly reduce the trip to 35 minutes each way.
Kitsap Transit is currently looking at alternatives for funding for the route and will redeploy the existing 118-passenger Rich Passage I. The ferry was built for Kitsap Transit and put into service for testing during Summer 2012. Potential riders of the new ferry route say that they want to be able to reserve their seats. Riders fear that the route would be so popular, reservations are the only way to make it competitive and reliable against the regular, but slower, WSF ferries.