Kitsap Transit Reports 33% Annual Increase in Ferry Ridership

Kitsap Transit said in January that its passenger-only ferries carried more than a million commuters in 2023, a 33% jump over ridership in 2022, as demand rebounded in the post-pandemic era.

The Kitsap County, Wash. public transit agency said its three cross-sound fast ferry routes between the Kitsap Peninsula and downtown Seattle accounted for nearly all the ridership gain, with the Bremerton/Seattle route posting a 54% gain over the prior year.

Starting in December 2022, Kitsap Transit temporarily added 14 weekday sailings and 14 Saturday sailings on the Bremerton/Seattle route in an arrangement with the state until Washington State Ferries can restore its two boat service on the route.

Two newer fast-ferry routes also saw significant ridership gains: the Kingston/Seattle route saw a 37% increase in ridership and the Southworth/Seattle route a 49% increase. Average passenger loads per sailing were up 35% for the Kingston service and 41% for the Southworth service, according to Kitsap Transit.

In addition, Kitsap Fast Ferries met the agency’s 2023 goal of obtaining 98% or better service reliability and arrived on time (defined as within five minutes of scheduled arrival) 95% of the time.

The ridership gains came in a year that Kitsap Transit mounted its first-ever marketing campaign for its fast ferry service. The campaign, “Reliable, Relaxing & REAL FAST,” was produced in partnership with Tacoma marketing firm JayRay, with video ads running on YouTube, Facebook and TikTok, among other digital channels, and large printed banners on Kitsap Transit buses.

To meet the ongoing maintenance needs of its 10-vessel fleet, Kitsap Transit is planning to build a new ferry maintenance facility. When complete, the facility is expected to increase ferry service reliability and directly benefit multimodal transit in the region, the agency said.