Work leading to a new and improved passenger-only ferry dock began Tuesday with the driving of piles for a temporary facility.
The existing float will be towed from south of Colman Dock to the north side because it occupies space where the new dock will be built. The shift will occur August 7 through 14. Kitsap Transit worked a deal with Argosy Cruises for its fast ferry to land at Pier 54 during that time.
When it’s completed in fall 2018, the passenger waiting area will be sheltered from the weather and connected to Colman Dock by a pedestrian bridge. As of now, two boats will be able to dock at once. The schedule will become more challenging when Kitsap Transit adds a route from Kingston next summer and another from Southworth in 2020.
The Bremerton route has proved popular since starting up on July 10, in part because rides were free during a get-acquainted period that ended Tuesday.
"The ridership has been beyond our initial expectations, especially on Saturday, which has been quite surprising," said Kitsap Transit executive director John Clauson. "It has been extremely well used. We're very pleased with how things have been going."
The Rich Passage went unused much of the past several years, but the staff has stayed on top of most of the start-up issues, Clauson said. The low-wake vessel was sidelined for a couple afternoons with an electrical problem.
Three-fourths of the Rich Passage 1's 118 seats are available by reservation. Walk-ups can grab the remaining 30. Reservations can be made a month in advance. Reserved seats for all of September's 6:50 a.m. sailings from Bremerton and 4 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. from Seattle were booked by Tuesday morning.
The agency is open to improving the reservation system.
"We're watching and listening," Clauson said.
What is most needed is a second boat, but it has to be built. The Rich Passage 2 is expected to join the route in 2019.
"Certainly we're looking forward to when we can bring additional vessels into the fleet, but we have to go through the process to do that," Clauson said.