Foot ferry service full throttle

They’re back.

And guess what? There is coffee and corn chowder on board as well.

Since Monday Kitsap Ferry Company has offered fast ferry service from Bremerton and Seattle eight times a day.

Tickets are $7 each way, but reduced monthly ticket books are available.

“There was a great jump right after the first day of service,” said the president of the company, Greg Dronkert.

On Monday 157 people rode the ferry.

On Tuesday the number jumped to 182, and has stabilized throughout the week.

Dronkert is shooting to offer 800 total rides per day.

“It’s comfortable and its quicker than Washington State Ferries,” said Bob Bortvedt, lounging in a window seat on Tuesday with the water splashing outside.

“That’s the main reason I take it - it saves time.”

The ride totals 40 minutes, about 20 minutes less than the auto ferry.

“It’s great,” said Bill Parker, sitting next to his wife Laurie on Tuesday afternoon on the Bremerton to Seattle run.

The Gig Harbor residents were late meeting some friends in Seattle but were happy to cut some time off their journey.

On Tuesday afternoon, Dronkert stood outside the door of the white and black ferry greeting people as they departed.

“Thank you,” he said, shaking every person’s hand.

Service is something Dronkert’s company holds dearly. If he isn’t at the door greeting a customer, the crew is always smiling and willing to say hello. The first thing a person notices when they walk on board is the stand towards the back serving refreshments. A sign hanging says Starbucks coffee is available, a welcome change from the vending machines that are present on the auto ferry system.

The ride is usually pretty smooth, with only a couple bumps over major swells. The max capacity is about 250.

Travel speed is between 16 and 25 knots.

Dronkert is still working out the specifics of how the seats and bicycle stands are arranged on board. He is shooting for a load and unload time of five minutes. Right now it is 10.

For the last year, they have offered service for the Navy between Bremerton and Everett. That has been a good testing ground to figuring costs, Dronkert said.

Now the big question is how many people decide to ride the boats. Fast ferry service was axed by the State Department of Transportation last September because it was not profitable. Employee costs and low ridership led to the decision.

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