(WSB photo from Seacrest, October 2011)
The West Seattle Water Taxi is coming off a big year – ridership numbers published online show its usage up 40 percent last year, compared to 2009, and it wasn’t all the extra “Viadoom” ridership in October – the ridership in December was more than triple that of a year earlier. Some big things are ahead for the King County Ferry District, which manages the run – including new vessels and a new administrator. and, as we first reported last month, a fare increase this spring. Today, the county has just sent out a reminder about the increase:
King County Water Taxi fares will be going up on March 1. The adult and youth fare for one-way trips on the West Seattle and Vashon routes will increase by 50 cents. Passengers with reduced fare permits will pay an additional 25 cents per ride.
This is the first fare increase since the King County Ferry District began operating the Water Taxi service nearly three years ago.
“The additional revenue generated from this increase, along with growing ridership and our continuing efforts to contain costs, will be important factors in helping us sustain this service in the long-term,” King County Ferry District Chair Joe McDermott said.
Both the Vashon Island and West Seattle routes provide year-round, weekday commute service. During the peak season, April through October, service on the West Seattle route expands to seven days a week, including extended hours on weekends and selected nights.
The fare increase is expected to generate in excess of $150,000 annually. This revenue will help offset operating costs and contribute to the King County Water Taxi’s overall financial stability.
Over the past year, ridership has hit record highs. The Rachel Marie, operating between West Seattle and downtown, has seen a 40 percent jump in annual ridership when compared to 2010.The Melissa Ann operates at near capacity between Vashon and downtown Seattle.
As a result of passenger demand, work has begun with the U.S. Coast Guard to raise capacity on both vessels from 150 to 172 passengers by early summer.
Efforts are also underway to replace the District’s aging fleet of leased vessels and improve passenger staging areas.
The new boats will be funded mostly by federal grants, as we reported last month. Meantime, the county says it’s getting closer to hiring a district administrator.