Windermere Real Estate/BI, Inc.
2013 started with a bang and things have not settled down yet. Click the collage above or here to read details about my 2013 sales. If you see a home that fits your needs, but you don’t see anything like it on the market, contact me. I am often able to help clients find homes not yet listed or can help them uncover a home from the shadow inventory of the slower years. With low inventory and multiple offers an experienced island agent is a must. If a house comes on the market that you love, chances are six other buyers are going to love it too. My experience will help you prevail in our market.
As prices begin to go up in some price ranges and not others, now more than ever, you need an experienced Island Broker with technical resources (like our island statistics we’ve been keeping since 1978) to help you interpret the market and understand the trends beyond the media buzz. As a Windermere Broker I use the tools and resources of Puget Sound’s most successful Real Estate company for the past 20+ years. More important, the experience, connections and teamwork here in our office has sold more homes on Bainbridge Island every year since the early 80’s. Give me a call, let’s chat about your next home.
One question I get a lot from folks looking to move to Bainbridge is “how easy is the ferry commute from Bainbridge to Seattle?” We had that very same question before moving to Bainbridge and thanks to our friend Julie, who we were renting a cottage from, we got an insider’s day to day perspective on ferry commuting. We were happy that the costs, how long an actual commute takes, etc. were not a surprise to us after we had purchased our home.
You will often hear that “Seattle is a 35 minute ferry ride from Bainbridge,” which is true, but that is dock to dock. In reality, door to door, at the very minimum is about an hour. But, even if your total commute is over an hour, 35 minutes will be on the ferry, where you can sleep, read, work, talk, drink, and unwind. Much different than the bumper to bumper traffic on I-5.
Our friend Julie shared this info with us while sitting outside her beach cottage on Pleasant Beach. This blog post won’t have the same charm, but will hopefully give you the ins and outs of ferry commuting to Seattle via different avenues/options. Everyone’s commute is a little different, but here are some of the more popular commuting combinations:
To me, this is ideal. Our friend Shelly lives in Winslow and walks on the ferry each morning and then walks off and to work at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle. She has about a ten minute walk on the Bainbridge side (not counting a stop for coffee at the coffee kiosk) and about a fifteen minute walk on the Seattle side. All in all about an hour. This is one of the leanest, most economical commutes you can do. Your only cost is the walk-on pass. No parking, no bus fares, and great exercise. And yes, she does it year round and has been doing it for over ten years – and for many years with kids in tow who went to daycare on the Seattle side.
My husband is one of the many bike commuters on the ferry each day. This too is one of the leaner commutes for time and money. Initially he did spend about $1000 on a new bike and gear, but that was quickly earned back on commute savings. We live in Winslow as well, which was a deliberate choice for us to be near the ferry on this side, given the fact that my husband’s office is ten miles off the ferry on the Seattle side. Being a bike commuter only costs $20 more a year than being a walk-on commuter. He leaves our house 15 minutes before the ferry departs and then has about a one hour bike ride on the other side, total time just shy of two hours. Now, with that said, his being a longer commute, he does not have to do it every day. He commutes to Seattle 3X a week and works on Bainbridge the other days. And yes, biking can be done most of the year. In the cold, icy season of Dec.-Feb. on some days, he does walk to the ferry and then take the bus on the other side. Not his preferred method because it does take longer, but on some days, it is just unsafe to bike. My husband’s commute is longer in time, but he also gets great excercise, something he does not have to worry about the rest of the week.
Our friend Mark lives out in Fort Ward and works in downtown Seattle. Fort Ward is on the extreme south end of the island, so he either gets a ride, takes the bus to the ferry or sometimes rides his bike. The majority of the time he takes the bus. To make the 6:20 am ferry, he would need to be on the 5:45 bus. However, this works for him because he only walks four blocks on the Seattle side, about ten minutes, so total commute time is an hour and five minutes. A monthly ORCA Bus Pass is also a great idea via Kitsap Transit.
This is where the commute gets a little trickier. Our friend Tim lives in one of the in-town neighborhoods, but his job location changes from time to time based on projects and currently, he is in Kirkland. Since Kirkland is a haul, he keeps a car on the Seattle side. So, on the Bainbridge side he takes a bus or rides his bike then walks or rides to his car in Seattle. On the Seattle side, you can pay to park in a garage from about $200-350 a month. So, Tim’s commute costs are higher with parking on the Seattle side and his commute time is about an hour and a half, best case.
Paying to park on the Bainbridge side is much more reasonable than parking in Seattle. Michael, one of my clients bought a house on the south end of the island as well. Luckily, he too works in downtown Seattle. To save some time, he drives to and parks at the ferry and then walks on. This adds about $100-125 to his monthly commute, but saves him about 10 minutes each way in time. So, his total commute time with a ten minute walk in Seattle is about an hour.
Our friend Doug works in Bellevue. He does not need to go in everyday of the week, but on the days he does, he drives. Which means driving on and off the ferry. Getting a car on the ferry during peak times does require more time to ensure you actually get on the ferry. And, the cost is much higher as well. If you did this 2X a week it would cost over $200 a month, 4X a week would be double. However, if you require a car on both sides, this could be the most cost effective option, as there are no parking fees. In time, this is at least a 90 minute commute, best case scenario.
There are of course other options like carpooling, keeping a bike at the Bike Barn at the ferry, riding a scooter or motorcycle, but the above are some of the more popular means of getting to work. In short, it is ideal if you live and work close to the docks on both sides, but if that can’t be controlled, living or working close to the dock on at least one side is the next best option.
So, 90 minutes is a long commute yes, but the fact that a third of that is on the ferry makes all the difference in the world. The time on the ferry is prime social time or down time for many folks. On the commute runs, you see people talking, playing games, reading, working on their laptops, listening to iPods, knitting, playing cards, paying bills, and drinking, yes drinking. In addition to food there is beer and wine on the ferry and yes, folks do partake. ”Having a drink after work” can be rolled into your commute home, which is just plain efficient. Folks getting home after a ferry ride certainly do not have the same blood pressure as those getting out of a car after 90 minutes on the freeway.
So, please know that your commute is not going to be 35 minutes long, but the fact that you can live in a rural community and work in the big city via a one hour commute, sans driving, is pretty cool.
For more nuts and bolts, visit the WSF Bainbridge site.
Get a first hand look at the ferry scene with the Ferry Web Cam.
UPDATED Feb. 2017.
One question I get a lot is the question regarding health care options on the island. On the island we have a number of doctor’s offices and ‘during the day’ walk-in urgent care. Virginia Mason, The Doctor’s Clinic and Bainbridge Pediatrics are the largest offices, plus a number of smaller offices. But as of now (June 2013) we do not have a 24 hour urgent care or a full-service hospital. However, the good news is Harrison has purchased a site on the island to build a 13,000 square foot 24 hour urgent care facility scheduled to open in 2014. Read the Bainbridge Review article here). What we do have on the North Kitsap side is Harrison Hospital in Silverdale, which is accessible off the Agate Pass Bridge to the north. But, since large hospitals like Children’s Hospital, Harborview and UW Medical Center are in Seattle, the ferry and transport time can pose an issue for a critical emergency.
What many people don’t know, however, is that we DO have a heli-pad at our main fire station on Madison Avenue. The heli-pad has been in use on Bainbridge since 1972, first through Army MAST Helicopters and now through several transport agencies affiliated with the Life Flight network of Washington. A helicopter transport is the quickest way to get off the island and to a hospital supporting the needs of the emergency.The upside is that a helicopter transport can be faster than an ambulance navigating busy city streets. The downside is that a helicopter transport ride can be a very expensive unplanned cost (costs can be upwards of $10k) and most medical insurance companies do not provide full coverage.
For my clients and those new to the island, I recommend that you first check with your medical coverage to see if they cover air transports. If you do not have coverage (or full coverage), you can purchase coverage for your entire immediate family for only $79 a year ($155 for 2 years) through Aircare Northwest. The Aircare Membership Program helps fund Airlift Northwest, the actual helicopter program. They provide residents in communities in South East Alaska and Washington with high-quality air medical service at an affordable cost. Full program details are here, as is a brochure. To register now, click here. A great deal, in my opinion, especially since I personally know of families who have had to use the service. And living close to the heli-pad, I can attest that is does get a fair amount of use. You never like hearing the helicopter coming in or taking off because it does usually mean a potentially life threatening situation, but at the same time, I always feel grateful that we have service so close.
About a year after we moved here I learned that our standard ferry crossing (35 minutes) can be sped up in an emergency and the ferry can actually cross in about 18 minutes. Again, I learned that from experience. It was indeed a different ferry ride to cross in about half the time. In that situation, an ambulance will call ahead and the ferry will wait for the ambulance then take off when it arrives. They will not necessarily load the rest of the boat. This happens for semi-critical cases. Also, again from experience, we learned after checking out from a Seattle hospital post-surgery, that hospitals can issue you a priority loading pass. When you arrive at the ferry terminal you go straight to the front of the line and are the first to load.
Our fire and emergency personnel are fantastic on the island. I have seen them in action and we are very fortunate for the first responder level of care we have on Bainbridge. A few years ago the fire department started offering free reflective address numbers to help them find our homes and businesses quicker when there is an emergency. In our rural environment, it can be tricky. The Bainbridge Island Fire Department provides blue reflective address number for free. For more info, click here.