Seattle Water Taxi
Water Taxi, Photo by a_time2flk

The Seattle Times has picked up on the fact that the West Seattle Water Taxi (aka the Elliot Bay Water Taxi) is one of the best and cheapest travel/outdoors recreation activities in the city, by putting information about the taxi in the “Travel/Outdoors” section of the paper. The water taxi runs from Pier 55 to Seacrest Park in West Seattle, a couple hundred feet from Alki Beach. It’s $3 or free with a Metro Pass. It’s an awesome activity to do with out-of-town guests, and an event better one to send your out-of-town guests on when you are at work or just want them out of your hair for a day.

I’ve got a couple of out-of-town guest groups crashing with me this summer, and I am definitely sending them on a trip to West Seattle via the Taxi.

29 Replies to “Seattle Times Gets The Water Taxi”

  1. I went on this the day it was 70. SO TRUE! Argosy eat your heart out! This could be a huge tourist attraction as well as being a time saver for commuters!

      1. Yep, notice the name of the boat, “Sightseer”. At least they haven’t (yet) committed to buying a boat and adding Inland Boatmen’s Union employees to the county payroll.

  2. Good story Andrew. One minor point Alki Beach starts roughly 1.5 miles further West along Harbor Ave and Alki Ave. There is a nice pedestrian and bike path with a linear park all the way around Duwamish Head though.

    1. There are also two small shuttles that run either to the main area of Alki or up to the West Seattle Junction. It’s a great way to head up to the Farmers Market on Sunday mornings for those of you outside the neighborhood!

  3. As the Times article noted (but oddly not the headline), the proper name is the “King County Water Taxi”.

    This distinction is important for many reasons: crossing Elliott Bay to West Seattle is only the the beginning, King County anticipates five future routes,
    inclduding Lake Washington crossings. This is in addition to the existing Vashon ferry. Once a fleet of boats is running a common name makes it easier to exchange boats amongst the routes.

    Secondly, all King County residents subsidize the cost, so unlike our sports stadiums the name rights reflect the true owners.

    1. Thanks for that – am I correct that next April the water taxi will be year-round?

      Also, when do we begin to experiment with other routes? May I put in a plug for one from Tacoma (Point Defiance or downtown) to the Seattle waterfront? I have long thought of that route as a possibly very pleasant run.


      1. Since a ferry to Tacoma would mostly serve Pierce County residents, so it would require Pierce County Ferries to subsidize a lot of it. Also, it was not one of the many routes studied by the PSRC, probably because of the duplication of service. I would probably take much longer than the bus, Sounder, or future Link. However, a Downtown Tacoma-Pt. Defiance or Downtown Tacoma-Tahlequah route might work.
        The routes that have gotten the most support are one from Kirkland-UW, and from Kenmore-Seattle (presumably UW), from Renton-Seattle (probably Leschi). There are also proposed routes from Des Moines and Shilshole to downtown Seattle, but it seems to me that those would take much longer than buses would, so would get a much lower ridership, but perhaps not.
        Also, there was a very popular temporary POF from Port Townsend to Seattle, and there have been publicly and privately operating POFs from Bremerton to Seattle several times in the past. POFs have been proposed from Seattle to many other places too, like Kingston, Suquamish, Southworth, and Port Orchard. I like all of them. Car ferries, although they are great for transportation, use an enormous amount of fuel (I heard it would use less fuel per car if everyone drove down from Seattle to Bremerton via the Narrows Bridge than is used by the ferry), so any chance to get more efficient cross-Sound transportation is great.

      2. Bring back the Port Townsend-Seattle run! I took a trip on it once and it was a huge time and money saver. With the Hood Canal Bridge closures coming up, it would’ve been a great time. A shame since the Snohomish was sold to the folks down in San Fran.

    2. The West Seattle route will begin year-round service in 2010 according to KCFD’s website. Winter service between October and April, however, will be during mornings and evenings only, in both directions.

      The first demonstration route begins operation in 2010, pushed back from the original Summer 2009 date.

  4. So true Andrew – the water taxi is an excellent way of seeing our lovely skyline. Any of the Bainbridge or Bremerton ferries are also an excellent way of seeing the same.

    By the way, the new Port of Seattle cruise ship terminal is opening in the next couple of weeks. I signed up to get a preview of it. This is over in interbay between Queen Anne and Magnolia.


  5. Argosy runs a number of great sightseeing routes. Now that property taxes are subsidizing one it’s a really great deal. Sorry King County. Whine about lax of funds for Metro all you want but it’s going to ring hollow as long as there’s a surplus account for ferries.

    1. Bernie,

      The ferry district taxing authority can only be used for ferries. There’s no way ferry spending in any way impacts Metro revenue, except that it might impact the willingness of various parties to give King County additional authority.

      1. It’s the tax payers money. King County decided to, with out a vote, create a ferry system by increasing taxes. Then out of the other side of their mouth complain about a lack of revenue. What they are lacking are priorities. Spending money on tourism isn’t a bad thing but start with putting back the waterfront trolleys they bought years ago and now store in a barn. How many passenger ferries has the state bought and then sold at a loss? It’s about the most inefficient “transit” plan imaginable but the King County Council found a new way to tax people and just can’t help spending it.

      2. If you think the ferries are waste of taxpayers’ money, that’s a reasonable critique and an argument we can have. But don’t drag Metro’s situation into this, as it’s simply not relevant.

        If the Senate Bill had taken the ferry authority and made it generic transit authority that would be a different story, but that’s not on the table.

      3. And this blog has pointed out that some of us are arguing for precisely what you’ve asked for, Bernie. We’re trying to get the Legislature to approve allowing the Ferry District to either give or temporarily loan some of that taxing authority in order to help close the budget hole at Metro.

  6. This ferry isn’t only for tourists, it’s a measure to increase commuting options for West Seattle, especially during the viaduct construction that will surely see traffic – and bus service – grinding to a halt due to road shutdowns. We don’t know if we will be getting any new bus routes (RR is no guarantee) and with no dedicated bus lanes (don’t talk to me about the 1/2 mile lane on the bridge), no streetcars, no trains we are stuck in never-never land. West Seattlites were heavily involved in making sure that the taxi didn’t shut down a year ago and are very happy that there is an alternative out there for us. That ferry is going to be full to capacity in a year, if not this summer.

  7. As passenger ferries go the West Seattle run is pretty good. Contracting with Argosy makes a lot of sense. It doesn’t justify a KCFD and property taxes on the entire county. If City of Seattle wants to fund it great. They seem to have been doing that just fine. People who chose to live on Vashon should be the ones paying for additional service. Ferries on Lake Washington make no sense at all. The Lake Washington bridges move a quarter million vehicles everyday. The number removed by ferries is so small it’s below the noise level. Certainly less than if spent on better bus service.

    1. Yes, but a ferry would be way more fun and relaxing – especially if it went from Renton to the University District. We live near or on water, so let’s make some good use of it! Tourists would love it – from the Renton Landing to the U in however many minutes?

      The state needs additional sources of revenue desperately and property taxes I would think are more stable as a revenue source than sales taxes?


    2. Also, its not just to decrease congestion. Transit offers an alternative to congestion; a Kirkland to UW route might get there in half the time it takes at peak times on the 520/405.

      1. We could use helicopters too. Kirkland to UW yacht service is an expensive benefit to a very few people. That and a photo op for politicians. It seems like a great deal because hundreds of thousands of people get stuck paying for it.

      2. Foot ferries can be pretty inexpensive, and especially for the Kirkland-UW route, can take a much more direct route than a bus. The 540, between Kirkland and UW, get several hundred riders a day, and most of these people would probably ride the service, plus people who wouldn’t ride the bus like ferries a lot more because they’re much more relaxing, clean, and scenic, so it might get up to 1000 riders per day. The PSRC foot ferry study says that it would make the crossing in 20 minutes, which is up to 10 minutes less the the scheduled time for the 540, and isn’t subject to traffic conditions at all which frequently delay the 540 and other buses going across the Lake. The study also says that it will cost about $2.4mn to operate per year, probably a little less then the helicopter plan.

      3. Foot ferries can be pretty inexpensive,

        compared to helicopters

        especially for the Kirkland-UW route

        Did you read the PSRC study?

        It’s not clean. Ferries are far and away the most polluting form of transportation going. The WSF system sold the passenger only ferries not only because they were super expensive to operate but they were destroying the shoreline. Beyond that boats dump all the diesel exhaust directly into the water.

  8. When my family comes to town they always want to ride over to West Seattle and walk the shore, maybe see a seal, great views of the sunset, city etc. I believe that water taxi spouts its exhaust above the passenger deck, Bernie.

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