(WSB photo from April 23)
Exactly two months after news that King County would take possession of the Spirit of Kingston and put it on the West Seattle Water Taxi run – the change is about to happen. We just got word from the office of King County Councilmember Joe McDermott that Spirit of Kingston will take over the run starting tomorrow (Saturday), which means that, after three years, 25-year-old Rachel Marie will become a backup boat. Kingston got the 7-year-old SoK through federal grants but scrapped its foot-ferry service and would have had to pay the grants back if this transfer – which brings the boat here almost for free, as explained in our November report – hadn’t happened. More to come.
ADDED 1:39 PM: The county’s official announcement has just arrived via e-mail – read on:
The King County Ferry District’s new vessel, Spirit of Kingston, will make her inaugural trip to West Seattle from downtown Seattle’s Pier 50 at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, May 18.
The 65-foot catamaran recently joined the King County Ferry District’s fleet of water taxis after being acquired at no cost through an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The King County Ferry District was able to acquire the FTA funded vessel after its former operator, Port of Kingston, discontinued service to Seattle last fall.
In addition to improved service reliability, the acquisition will help the district reduce operational costs. The district estimates it will save more than $425,000 on lease and rental expenses over the next five years.
“Water taxi riders will benefit from increased reliability as the Kingston sets sail. This is another example of the District’s efforts to work efficiently and provide dependable service for the thousands of riders who rely on the water taxi to get to work, school or play,” said Joe McDermott, chair of the King County Ferry District.
Since acquiring the eight-year old vessel earlier this year, the Ferry District’s Marine Division has been performing crew training and modifying the boarding area to accommodate passenger loading. The vessel also recently underwent a complete U.S. Coast Guard inspection.
The vessel carries up to 147 passengers and will replace the Rachel Marie, an older leased vessel that has been providing service between West Seattle’s Seacrest Park and the downtown Seattle waterfront since April, 2010. The Rachel Marie will now serve as a back-up when other vessels are out of service for maintenance or repairs. A third boat, the Melissa Ann, provides weekday service between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle.
The district contracts with the King County Department of Transportation’s Marine Division to provide passenger-only ferry service.