Did bus changes play into West Seattle Water Taxi ridership slip?

January 10, 2013 at 11:14 am | In King County Water Taxi, Transportation, West Seattle news | 41 Comments

If you check out the West Seattle Water Taxi ridership numbers for October and November, you’ll notice a double-digit ridership drop for each of those months, year-to-year. October was down almost 19 percent from a year earlier, November was down 18 percent. (December numbers aren’t posted yet.)

One thing that occurred to us shortly after noticing those numbers: October marked the launch of the RapidRide C Line and the restructuring of other West Seattle bus routes, including a cut in service on Route 37, which serves the West Seattle waterfront. West Seattle’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott chairs the WT-overseeing King County Ferry District Board; legislative assistant Michelle Allison acknowledges that could be part of the reason:

The Ferry District and the Marine Division have been working to better understand these numbers as well. There are a couple of reasons why we think the ridership has taken a bit of a dip.

The first is that during 2011 we experienced a significant jump in ridership beginning in October with the viaduct closure – who could forget Viadoom. October of 2011 there was a 141% increase over the October 2010 ridership, November saw a 277% increase and December a 260% increase. When comparing the 2012 numbers, it is certainly not realistic to think that the increases from 2011 were going to be sustainable over the long haul. We have, however, retained a good portion of those riders when compared to 2010.

The second factor is, as you noted, the implementation of the RapidRide C. We think that some of our ridership is finding that commute option more to their liking. These two factors may account for some of the lower ridership numbers for West Seattle during the last quarter of 2012. The good news is that total 2012 West Seattle ridership was up 15.4% for the year compared to 2011. A total of just under 250,000 riders compared to 216,000 in 2011.

As you wrote about in October, the Board approved a schedule change for the morning run. There is now a 6:15 run which we hope will better accommodate the early commuters. We also hope to better communicate our service to West Seattle and area residents in the coming year.

The winter schedule continues through April 7th; note that the Water Taxi will not be in service on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day on January 21st, one week from next Monday.

41 Comments

  1. Sorry, but I haven’t found the Rapid Ride more to my liking – you cut the two buses I would use to get to the water taxi!

    Comment by RR ain't all that great — 11:53 am January 10, 2013 #

  2. Maybe if there was a bus line that took people to the water taxi more folks would use it? Makes sense to me. The shuttles busses are not reliable and have not much capacity. The only people that seem to use it to me are those that live right near the water taxi or drive and can park in the limited spaces along the water front. Extending the 55 or 50 or 128 down to the water taxi I am sure would boost ridership since taking the rapid ride has been less than rapid and a bit crowded…..

    Comment by donofAdmiral — 12:09 pm January 10, 2013 #

  3. Michelle seems optimistic. I was thinking something a bit different RE: Repid Ride – it was such a cluster, some people abandoned public transit and drove, thus cutting down the water taxi’s numbers.

    Comment by westcoastdeb — 12:11 pm January 10, 2013 #

  4. RapidRide C is a big failure as far as I can tell. Buses still not on time, the take away of bus stops making it impossible for some folks to take the bus, terrible traffic tie ups as a result of the lane remarkings and traffic bulbs that let buses have the whole street tied up when they stop, And yet Metro insists on being positive about it–even blaming water taxi ridership slippage on the popularity of the RapidRideC. Really?

    Sandy

    Comment by sandy — 12:21 pm January 10, 2013 #

  5. October 2011 had the viaduct closed for a week and a half, right? That certaily inflated those 2011 ridership numbers.

    Comment by sna — 12:21 pm January 10, 2013 #

  6. Calling Rapid Ride a “restructuring” is misleading. Like calling a tax increase a “change” in the tax code.
    .
    We had a REDUCTION in bus service. New bus colors and names notwithstanding, the effects of a reduction in bus use following a reduction in bus service should come as no surprise.

    Comment by Alex — 12:43 pm January 10, 2013 #

  7. “The second factor is, as you noted, the implementation of the RapidRide C. We think that some of our ridership is finding that commute option more to their liking.”

    Delusional.
    Unless Michelle lives elsewhere, she cannot possibly belive that.

    Comment by CandrewB — 12:51 pm January 10, 2013 #

  8. The idea that Rapid Ride is so GOOD and thus water taxi ridership is down is perfectly preposterous.
    Now I can’t even get to the water taxi in a reasonable amount of time and I live in Admiral.
    Rapid Ride and the reduction in the 56/57 route are the reason I haven’t taken any public transportation in over three months. A 30min trip downtown would now take me 55-60 minutes.

    Comment by Emily — 1:03 pm January 10, 2013 #

  9. I would have loved to take the water taxi many times but it is impossible to get to it. I live on DelRidge now and i used to live in Westwoood before. As somebody previously said there are not good connections to it. unless you live close by or get dropped off there there is not way to use that service. I like the idea of getting the 128 stop by it. Is Metro aware of this issue?

    Comment by RB — 1:39 pm January 10, 2013 #

  10. Did you know that metro offered free bus passes from Sept. to Dec. 8th? That is probably why people took the bus more in those month’s with a free bus pass. My husband did use the free bus pass to take the Water Taxi home from his job, I have to drop him off at work as the Water Taxi does not leave early enough.

    Comment by Lola — 1:56 pm January 10, 2013 #

  11. The 9:15 was the taxi I usually took – its gone in the winter. With the reduced daytime hours in winter, I’m even less likely to make it to the 8:45 or one of the earlier ones.

    But, I feel bad – will try to take it more.

    Comment by Lisa — 1:58 pm January 10, 2013 #

  12. I live in the Admiral District. What used to be a fairly quick bus ride downtown now requires an over 1/4 mile walk and a minimum of two buses each way. I now drive.

    Comment by Maddie — 1:59 pm January 10, 2013 #

  13. I am one of the (apparently many) people who are worse off with the Rapid Ride C than I was with the 54/54X.
    .
    If there were a peak-hour bus or shuttle from the Morgan Junction to the water taxi dock (direct, not transferring at the AK Jct), I would take the water taxi instead of the C.

    Comment by Ben — 2:03 pm January 10, 2013 #

  14. I’m not on the water taxi because the bus reductions on Genesee Hill have led me to drive more. It’s a bummer.

    Comment by soosan — 2:19 pm January 10, 2013 #

  15. If Metro has these statistics, why haven’t they updated the online performance measures in months?
    http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/monthly-measures/service-quality.html

    Comment by Jeff Welch — 2:26 pm January 10, 2013 #

  16. If you go to the Performance Measures site, and select “view data”, you may be able to se numbers not yet incorporated into the graph on the main screen. For example, data shows that customer complaints increased 51.3% from this time last year, doubling from September to October (corresponding with Rapid Ride implementation).

    Comment by Jeff Welch — 2:37 pm January 10, 2013 #

  17. The changes to bus service have definitely affected how frequently I take the Water Taxi — but NOT because the bus service has gotten better. To the contrary, I used to take the 37 to work on some days; now the last one leaves West Seattle in the morning at 7:40 a.m., which is way earlier that I go to work. (Isn’t 9:00 a pretty common time for people to go to work downtown? Was this not considered when making changes to the 37 schedule?) Now I take the water taxi downtown every day. I have a mile to walk from Pier 50 to get to work, which, most days, I really like. When it’s pouring down rain, not so much. But at least I’m lucky to live near the water taxi; otherwise, I’d have no public transit option in the morning (unless of course I could somehow get to the Junction to catch the C line). Do city officials really think the C line is such a success? Nonsense.

    Comment by Water taxi rider — 2:50 pm January 10, 2013 #

  18. Correction: “I am one of the (apparently many) people who are worse off with the Rapid Ride C than they were with the 54/54X.”

    Comment by Ben — 2:51 pm January 10, 2013 #

  19. Jury might not be out on Rapid Ride,but it’s not looking good….the people have spoken.

    Comment by Jamie — 2:53 pm January 10, 2013 #

  20. They are comparing numbers to the timing during ‘viadoom”. (????) As quoted- Ridership went up 200% during that time. A reduction of only 18% ridership since those months last year seems pretty unbelievably good! I love the water taxi – but it costs almost 2x the amount as a usual bus ride and shuttle service to it stinks. I think the boat has retained ridership because the bus service in admiral stinks!

    Comment by AdmiralMaam — 3:10 pm January 10, 2013 #

  21. That’s certainly a glass-half-full way to look at it. But on the other hand, the WT by most accounts has a long way to go to be consistently full … so it could be hoped that it would continue to climb, and build on last year’s gains. Anyway, it was something I noticed while looking at the ridership table, and given the big bus changes/cuts, I thought I’d ask, so I did.

    Comment by WSB — 3:16 pm January 10, 2013 #

  22. I’d love to take the water taxi but there seems no convenient way to get to it by bus without transferring to those seemingly infrequent shuttles.

    There should at least be a direct connection via the “transit center” where a dozen or so lines connect.

    I have always found this a very odd situation. Interconnections of various services in as direct a manner as possible (e.g. minimizing transfers) would seem to be a prime goal of any public transit system.

    I’d like to see at least one “shopping shuttle” that interconnected White Center, Westwood and the Junction and environs as a further example of utility. Too much is focused on ommuters heading downtown to the detriment of people who just need to use the bus for everything.

    Comment by Jim P. — 3:44 pm January 10, 2013 #

  23. No s***, Sherlocks at Metro, you think taking the one major bus down to a couple times a day might affect people being able to take the Water Taxi? I am constantly amazed by the stupidity on display from these people. I used to take the 37 all the time, at one point I commuted daily on it, and now I can’t take it at all because the last morning bus is at a ridiculous hour. They’ve moved the Crapid Ride so far from me it’s difficult to take, whereas the 37 was a block from my front door. I would love to go back to the Water Taxi, but you stole my ride, Metro.

    Comment by emcat8 — 4:04 pm January 10, 2013 #

  24. I cannot take the WT in the morning now with winter schedule. In the past, due to Viadoom, there were more runs, even during winter.
    I cannot take the 50 either, since it requires a transfer—no more one seat ride downtown off-peak from north Admiral (taking up to an hour to go to or from DT is too long). And, you cannot get on RRC underneath the WSB, which most buses from north Admiral do/did–you take the LOCAL 50 all the way to SODO to get on light rail. And as others have said, the cuts to the 37 also hit hard.
    Total cluster. I knew it, sent in comments, etc., but it made little difference.
    Pay in dollars or in time, which in my case, time costs more so I now drive.

    Comment by Carraig na Splinkeen — 4:22 pm January 10, 2013 #

  25. Metro shouldn’t flatter themselves. The Viaduct was the big reason ridership bumped last year — and as Metro admits, ridership is still higher than it was in 2010.
    .
    Just a small decline in 2011 figures should be huge GOOD news for the Water Taxi, and the RapidRide doesn’t even rate a mention.

    Comment by Mel — 4:34 pm January 10, 2013 #

  26. It’s pretty full at night in January so far. I also miss the 9:15! I’ve heard that the 6:15 AM WT has very low ridership

    Comment by Junebug — 5:26 pm January 10, 2013 #

  27. My husband and I rode the WT for several years as a means to get to the small Alki Fish Restaurant on the dock at the ferry landing. With the closing of the restaurant we no longer use the WT. A shame as we loved looking at all that was going on along the water route.

    Comment by taxilessinSeattle — 5:28 pm January 10, 2013 #

  28. How about putting back some of those stops on California Ave. Two whole stops going South from Junction on California Ave is ridiculous!

    Comment by ineedmytwinkiesnow — 5:40 pm January 10, 2013 #

  29. Anyone know how the cost per rider compares between the water taxi and metro bus?

    Comment by sna — 7:14 pm January 10, 2013 #

  30. I would love to take the water taxi, but a transfer to get there without regular 37 device, puts me on the dreaded C line (or better, the 55) instead. I saw a map six months before the new bus changes officially rolled out, and it had the 128 going to Seacrest. Which was part of our decision to move to WS carless. Sigh.

    Comment by Chris W — 7:41 pm January 10, 2013 #

  31. For Pete’s sake. The C line is not the reason for the water taxi’s dip! The water taxi is a sweet ride- fast comfortable, with a super nice crew. The C line is uncomfortable ( no padding on the seats, no leg room, and 50% of the riders are standng)and a longer commute. The problem with the water taxi is that you have to get to it. It would take me two connections to gt there- or drive. Just for the record the C is a failure. I wish Metro would quit spinning it up and be honest.

    Comment by Mike Mahanay — 5:25 am January 11, 2013 #

  32. Bring back the 56! There are no connections to the Admiral Junction from Admiral Way east. I cannot get to a water taxi shuttle stop. Going downtown is 1/2 hour longer (or more) and standing room only. What good is free wifi if you’re standing

    Comment by michelle warren — 8:06 am January 11, 2013 #

  33. Remember this is Metro we are talking about. They are not smart enough to realize that by choking off service on the 37, they are abandoning north admiral.

    Comment by Baymo — 8:18 am January 11, 2013 #

  34. My comments are similar to many others. The C line is definitely not to my liking, but it’s too hard to get to the water taxi. I used to take it home in the afternoon and then catch the 37 because that got me close to my house, but that no longer works because of the 37′s reduction. I’m always worried that the shuttle will be too full and then I’ll be stranded and even if I can catch it it’s still a good walk home from the Junction where it lets off. It would be great if there was a bus that was dedicated to the taxi vs. the shuttles. I know they discussed a park n ride at one point also, which would be awesome.

    Comment by natinstl — 11:49 am January 11, 2013 #

  35. I suggested that the 51 go to the water taxi dock. What did they do? Eliminated the 51 !!

    Comment by dwar — 12:17 pm January 11, 2013 #

  36. From everything I’ve heard, Rapid Ride is a total bust. I hope all of you have made your feelings known to Metro. They definitely need to hear a steady drumbeat of user feedback and there’s an easy online form: http://metro.kingcounty.gov/contact/#online

    Comment by Laconique — 2:56 pm January 11, 2013 #

  37. I love the water taxi and using it in combination with the bus used to work, but with the changes it doesn’t. The water taxi needs help on both ends – in downtown it is quite a walk to get to a bus stop where you will wait forever. Many people just keep walking. I don’t mind that in the summer months or when it’s not raining… but this is Seattle! Lately I’ve been driving. Public Transportation needs to get people there faster than driving to get the numbers they want.

    Comment by Annie — 3:26 pm January 11, 2013 #

  38. I miss the 37. Used it almost daily for commuting both to and from downtown. On late work days I’d take the 56. The 56 is still an option for me, but on days that I work late than my only option is non-RapidRide and changing over to the 50 to get to Alki.

    I used the water taxi a couple years ago when it was included with the metro bus pass, and it dropped off near Red Robin. The current cost and location of the WT doesn’t work for me now, as it’s too long a walk to get to work from the current pier location.

    Comment by alki_2008 — 3:50 pm January 11, 2013 #

  39. I love the water taxi on my days off, but to actually use it to get to work…not so much. It’s farther away from the buses exiting on Seneca from the Viaduct, which I have to transfer to, it doesn’t run as late in the morning and at night like I would need, and now the RR from West Seattle goes to Ballard where I work. I miss taking it, but I can’t make it work for me…and I can see I’m not the only one.

    Comment by Kara — 11:32 pm January 11, 2013 #

  40. I would encourage folks to contact the County Council, not Metro directly – you can reach all of them here:

    http://kingcounty.gov/council/councilmembers.aspx

    Comment by JohnS — 1:34 pm January 17, 2013 #

  41. Taxiless, there is now an even better restaurant at the West Seattle Dock of the Water Taxi. Run by Marination Station, it has draft beer and wine, Hawaiian/Asian food plus fish and chips and fish tacos. Closed Mondays. http://marinationmobile.com/ma-kai

    Agree with the comments that the Water Taxi does not have good enough connections to the rest of West Seattle and downtown locations nor frequent enough service in the winter to encourage ridership.

    Comment by Kathy — 2:18 pm January 17, 2013 #

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