This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Passenger-ferry maddness continues, with talk of catamarans:

The passenger-only boats Washington State Ferries used to operate were criticized for damage their wakes caused to private property along the shorelines where they operated, especially in narrow passages. So designers of a new passenger-only ferry are determining how to minimize the ferries’ wake while maintaining reasonable speeds.

Designers have been working on a hydrofoil catamaran that could carry 149 passengers at a cruising speed of about 35 knots. It would be partially lifted from the water on a submerged wing that could increase speed, said Matt Mullett of All American Marine Inc., a boatbuilding company in Bellingham. The company builds aluminum boats for whale watching, ocean research and passenger transport among the Hawaiian Islands.

Catamarans ride on two parallel hulls. With less water resistance, they use 44 percent less fuel than monohulls and create smaller wakes, Mullett said.

Design of a new Puget Sound passenger-only vessel is expected by the end of this year, said Phil Osborne of Kitsap Transit and Pacific International Engineering.

35 knots! That’s almost three times the speed of the current ferries. Not too bad.

I love the idea of making use of the water again as one giant freeway around Puget Sound. Might as well turn our liabilities into assets. I can think of two main problems with the passenger ferries. First, with the exception of Downtown Seattle and maybe UW, your final destination is rarely within walking distance of the ferry dock. That means transfering to a bus or train, which adds considerably to the total travel time. Then there’s the labor issue. Ferries require dock workers to tie them up, collect tickets, etc. I’d be interested to see how it fares against other forms of mass transit in that regard.

Still, 35 knots is about 40mph, if my calculations are correct. Meaning that a catamaran ferry could potentially make it from Everett to Seattle in half the time it takes the Sounder train to make the same trip.