**NOTE – SINCE THE SERVICE’S NAME HAS CHANGED, STORIES NEWER THAN THIS ONE ARE CATALOGUED IN OUR “KING COUNTY WATER TAXI” CATEGORY, HERE**
Since our Water Taxi update this morning, its website has been updated with all of this year’s information, including schedules – and you’ll notice one big thing: It’s not the Elliott Bay Water Taxi any more; it’s the King County Water Taxi. Online info starts here; note that the KCWT will now run till late evening 7 nights a week, among other changes.
A month after first word that the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s new season will start April 5th (WSB coverage here), a few more Day 1 details just arrived – along with a coupon – so watch your mailbox. As has become traditional on the season’s first day, you’ll be able to ride the Water Taxi free all day on April 5; the kickoff festivities will happen at Seacrest from noon-2 pm. And for use after Day 1, clip the coupon that’s part of a postal-mailed postcard sent by King County Council Chair Dow Constantine (ours just arrived).
The city Board of Park Commissioners – the Parks Board, for short, whose chair Jackie Ramels and vice chair Neal Adams are both from West Seattle – took a field trip Thursday night to meet at the West Seattle Golf Course clubhouse instead of their usual digs at Parks HQ on the north end of downtown. The meeting was preceded by even more of a jaunt – they visited two of the locations to be discussed in the night’s business, Seacrest Pier and the Golf Course itself. Seacrest is before the board because Parks has to sign off on the King County Ferry District plan to fix up the Seacrest dock to facilitate year-round Elliott Bay Water Taxi operation starting next year (this year’s season starts April 5); the proposal is detailed here, and in our coverage of an informational meeting in Alki. Board member John Barber said he had some questions about the use of parks land for nonpark use, given a past ballot measure guaranteeing park uses for park land; city staff will review this, but noted that this extended use of Seacrest is only expected to last three to five years, while the county continues working to find a permanent home for the Water Taxi. Former port commissioner and nearby-park namesake Jack Block spoke in support of the Seacrest dock improvements, even though he cautioned that the long-term solution must be found elsewhere (a proposal for a terminal adjacent to Jack Block Park has long been floated); the board vote on this happens in two weeks. Next, the Golf Master Plan; tonight’s review focused on the money aspect. Two competing proposals are under consideration — one costs $30 million and would pay for all recommended upgrades at all city golf courses. The other costs $20 million and prioritizes key work. Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher told the board that staffers are learning toward #2 given the rough economic times — when things get better, the department could go on to complete the remaining $10 million work. Raising the money is the challenge; Gallagher said the city can finance $20 million in improvements without raising green fees, but not $30 million. Following tonight’s discussion, a public hearing on the Golf Master Plan is set for the April 9 Parks Board meeting, and a board vote on April 23.
PLANT SALE: It’s happening at South Seattle Community College, 11 am – 3 pm. Nursery (North Lot entrance), promising “blowout prices.”
PROSECUTOR IN WEST SEATTLE: Got questions about what happens to criminals AFTER police arrest them? King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg is the scheduled guest at the South Delridge/White Center Community Safety Coalition at St. James Place tonight, 9421 18th SW (map), 6 pm (free dinner!).
PARK BRIEFINGS: The Seattle Parks Board hears a briefing on Seacrest dock improvements to facilitate year-round Elliott Bay Water Taxi service as well as briefing on possible changes to park operating hours, parks HQ downtown at 7 pm.
As reported here a few days ago, this Thursday, the city Parks Board will get a briefing about the proposal to run the Elliott Bay Water Taxi year-round from Seacrest “temporarily,” till its permanent home is found. This is the next step toward final Parks approval of the plan, which then would enable county-funded dock improvements to be built later this year, to be in place for year-round operations to start in early 2010. The “briefing paper” that will be presented to the board is available online now; it says Parks staff recommends approval of the plan, and recaps “overwhelmingly supportive” reaction at the Alki Community Center open house last month (WSB coverage here), while mentioning a few more points:
*Final decision expected from the King County Ferry District by the end of June
*Project then would go out to bid in July
*Construction should be done sometime in December
*Divers’ ongoing concerns about Seacrest will be addressed – the briefing paper says:
Some divers would like to see mitigation at the park for increasing water-taxi service at the site. They have always had safety concerns about the shared use at this site, but we are anticipating that the improved dock configuration will be much safer for the divers as it moves the water taxi boat further from the diving area. A group of divers is going to work with King County Councilmember Dow Constantine on assistance in providing some amenities for divers at the site. In the past few years, a diver shower and safety buoys have been added as mitigation at Seacrest.
Public comment is not scheduled to be taken on this item at Thursday’s Park Board meeting (7 pm, parks HQ downtown); a public hearing is set for March 12, with a vote on March 26, and Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher getting the final say after that. Side note: This week’s Parks Board agenda has another item likely to be of wide West Seattle interest — a proposal for changing parks’ operating hours — that “briefing paper” is online now too, and we’ll write about it shortly. (Side note in another direction: While checking links for this item, discovered the King County Ferry District has a “blog” site now, and it was running a web poll asking what you think county-run passenger-ferry service should be called — Water Taxi? Water Bus? Foot Ferry? Passenger Ferry? The poll appears to be closed as of this writing, though.)
The next steps are set for the Parks Department to sign off on upgrading the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s dock at Seacrest (as discussed at the Alki Community Center meeting a month ago) , to prepare for year-round operation to start early next year: First, the city Parks Board (chaired by Alki’s Jackie Ramels) will be briefed at its next meeting, Feb. 26. Then the board plans a public hearing on March 12th – and it will meet in West Seattle for the occasion; that meeting’s set for the WS Golf Course. Two weeks after that, March 26th, the Parks Board will make its recommendation, and the final say goes to Parks Superintendent Tim Gallagher. If you don’t expect to be able to make it to the March 12th meeting, by the way, the department offers other ways to have a say:
E-mail: send to Sandy Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org. E-mails are forwarded as soon as possible after receipt. Deadline is 5:00 pm, Tuesday, March 24.
Fax: send “Attention: Sandy Brooks” at 206-233-7023
U.S. mail/hand-delivered: send to Sandy Brooks at 100 Dexter Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109-5199, or drop off at the front desk at 100 Dexter Ave N. Deadline is Thursday, March 19, to allow time for copying and mailing.
As first reported here last week, the Water Taxi’s start date this year is planned for April 5.
King County Council Chair Dow Constantine told yesterday’s West Seattle Chamber of Commerce lunch that the Elliott Bay Water Taxi would start its season about a month earlier this year than last year; he didn’t mention a date but when we caught up with him at last night’s 34th District Democrats meeting, we followed up, and now have the date to share with you: Sunday, April 5th. (Last year, it kicked off on April 27th; the EBWT’s future year-round operation is scheduled to start next year.)
If all goes as currently planned, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s long-anticipated year-round operation will start a little more than a year from now. But first, some improvements – including a new dock and gangway worth about $2 million at Seacrest, in the configuration above, displayed Thursday night at Alki Community Center during a public meeting about the proposal. The gangway will be 80 feet long and 10 feet wide, to accommodate people walking in both directions, which doesn’t work well on the current 6-foot-wide gangway. The new dock will extend past the end of the fishing pier, and then join with a 75-foot-long north-south section where the boat will tie up, keeping it further away from divers. The meeting brought other updates about the foot ferry’s future — read on: Click to read the rest of Details: New dock, new boat when Water Taxi goes year-round…
At the mayor’s open house: About 50 people there (Southwest Community Center in Westwood) as of 7 o’clock. No formal presentation, the mayor really is just working the crowd, with a variety of other high-level city staffers there (including SDOT director Grace Crunican and deputy mayor Tim Ceis, both of whom are also West Seattleites). At the Water Taxi dock open house: Also about 50 people (Alki Community Center) as of this writing, including County Council Chair Dow Constantine. Easels are set up displaying the changes planned for the Seacrest dock, which will stretch it out beyond the existing “L” shape, to a “T” that would be perpendicular to the end of the current fishing pier; there’s also information about an upcoming study of parking in the area. A formal presentation is about to be made. 8:44 PM NOTE: We’ll be publishing separate stories on both events – which are now over.
Before too much more time slips by, we wanted to remind you once more that in addition to the mayor’s snowstorm open house, 6:30 pm at Southwest Community Center, the other major event in West Seattle tonight is the Alki Community Center meeting about Seacrest dock changes to facilitate year-round Elliott Bay Water Taxi operation. That meeting starts at 7 pm.
Lots going on this week. This is all on the WSB West Seattle Events calendar too, in case you lose track:
-City Council briefing on snowstorm response, next steps: 9:30 am, City Hall (live online or on TV)
-County Council briefing on snowstorm response, 9:30 am, County Courthouse (live online or on TV)
-Denny Middle School Site Redevelopment Design Team, 7 pm, Denny Library
-“Scoping meeting” for proposed West Seattle jail site, Brockey Center at SSCC, 6:30 pm
-Community meeting re: Cooper Elementary “program closure,” Cooper Library, 7 pm
-Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting with transit and parking updates, 6:30 pm, Ginomai
-Fauntleroy Community Association meeting, 7 pm, The Hall at Fauntleroy
-Admiral Neighborhood Association meeting, 7 pm, Admiral Church
-Mayor’s “open house” promising one-on-one chats with citizens about snowstorm response, 6:30 pm, Southwest Community Center
-City/county-led public meeting about Seacrest dock changes to facilitate year-round Elliott Bay Water Taxi, 7 pm, Alki Community Center
Again, this is not EVERYTHING that’s happening, but those are the biggest events on the radar, so far. (Know of something major we somehow missed? Please let us know — thanks!)
We’ve told you about both of these before, but reminders are circulating today in non-Web ways, so we thought we’d point you to the basics again: First, our postal mail brought a reminder about the Delridge Skatepark public meeting January 14th (first mentioned here), 6 pm at Youngstown Arts Center – the city is proceeding with design though it doesn’t have construction money right now. Second, e-mail from the city just brought a reminder about the Elliott Bay Water Taxi/Seacrest dock improvements meeting January 15th (first mentioned here), 7 pm (with 7:30 pm presentation) at Alki Community Center.
For fellow numbers fans — Just got the final, FINAL Elliott Bay Water Taxi ridership numbers from County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s office, one day after the King County Ferry District budget won approval (WSB coverage here), furthering the process of moving the WT toward year-round status starting in early 2010. The “unofficial” year-end numbers on the season’s last day put ridership at 182,000 – but the final number is actually 182,904 – almost 183,000 – with a daily average of almost 1,000 (973, to be specific). Next year’s season is due to start up again in April; before then, be sure your calendar is marked for the January 15th public meeting at Alki Community Center (7 pm) to find out about the Water Taxi’s future, including improvements at Seacrest to make that dock work till its permanent home is eventually found.
Just one of those government-news-laden days. As promised in our previous report, here’s the official King County Ferry District news release about its $19 million 2009 budget getting unanimous approval at midday today: Click to read the rest of More details on Water Taxi/Ferry District approval vote…
ORIGINAL 11:15 AM POST: Just started in the King County Council chambers. Live on cable channel 22 (and online). This is where they are to vote on approving the budget for, and reauthorizing the property-tax levy to run, the King County Ferry District, parent agency of the Elliott Bay Water Taxi (and Seattle-Vashon passenger ferry). 11:34 AM UPDATE: The Ferry District’s $19 million budget for next year has just passed – with councilmembers (sitting as Ferry District directors) noting that it’s reduced from the original plan, because it will include the same levy level as this year, instead of seeking the one percent increase allowable by state law. Adding a few more details shortly. 12:01 PM UPDATE: A full news release is expected shortly, at which time we’ll post separately. In the short run – King County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s staff explains the tax-rate decision actually means a reduction from this year: The total amount to be collected is the same as last year, so with an increased amount of taxpayers, that means a small drop in the rate. Water Taxi fares will stay the same as this year, and the budget includes more than $2 million for dock improvements at Seacrest (which may not wind up costing that much), which will be discussed in the January 15th public meeting we first reported here a week ago.
That’s one of the iconic images from the coverage we dubbed Freeway Fright ’07 (all archived here) — the August 2007 I-5 lane closures that could have caused gridlock backing up into West Seattle, but didn’t because of commuter action like what’s shown above (an Elliott Bay Water Taxi run on Day 1 that carried about 200 people; photo was provided that day by the staff of County Councilmember Dow Constantine). The state Department of Transportation‘s communications team just won the National Partnership for Highway Quality‘s 2008 Gold Award for Public Communications for its effort to get the word out about Freeway Fright ’07 before and during the road work. They really did do a great job in reaching out to the public via myriad news sources (including WSB even though that was months before we became a full-fledged business) so we wanted to congratulate them, although in turn, their news release announcing the award congratulates YOU: “The project’s success really came from the public choosing to travel different routes, try public transit, work from home or defer their trips,” state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said. Speaking of the Water Taxi, looks like the King County Ferry District reauthorization vote is indeed happening next Monday (11 am); keep your Water Taxi support messages flowing in to email@example.com.
Less than 2 weeks after the Water Taxi ended its season, we’ve received word of another upcoming chance for you to have a say on its future: 7 pm Thursday, January 15th, is the time/date just set for a city/county-led public meeting at Alki Community Center, regarding both the WT’s anticipated move to year-round service in January 2010, and plans to improve the WT dock at Seacrest. Separately, the King County Ferry District comes up for $ reauthorization later this month and the county’s still taking your comments on what the Water Taxi means to you – dozens have come in, hundreds would be better: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re at the County Courthouse downtown (again), where the King County Ferry District public hearing drew … zero testimony from West Seattle. Spectators in the gallery, but nobody who wanted to speak. (Not exactly a convenient time, we know.) King County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s office does report more than 30 e-mails have come in, supporting the Elliott Bay Water Taxi and the Ferry District (which runs the EBWT and the Vashon passenger ferry), and you still have time to send yours, before a vote expected later this month on whether to reauthorize the Ferry District — not a slam-dunk deal — send e-mail to email@example.com.
2 major meetings on the WSB Events calendar: 1:30 pm at the King County Council Chambers, it’s the King County Ferry District public hearing we’ve been telling you about – if you can possibly break away to go voice your support for the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, it could mean a lot to the service’s future; if you can’t be there, send a WT support note to firstname.lastname@example.org … 7 pm tonight @ Denny Middle School, it’s the next session for the Design Team plotting the Denny site’s future, once the school itself moves to a new building on the Chief Sealth campus (here’s our report on the last meeting).
Click that picture to play the video clip — and a few seconds in, you’ll hear the captain’s farewell, as she sailed the Elliott Bay Water Taxi away from West Seattle for the last time at 11 pm last night. (We were at Seacrest for the WT’s first arrival of the year on 4/27/08, so it seemed only right to see it off for the season finale.) Twelve hours earlier, we were on the EBWT as a prelude to County Councilmember Dow Constantine’s media briefing — we shared most of the information (and some pix) in this earlier report, but here’s one more loose end – his reiteration of the importance of going to the King County Ferry District public hearing Monday afternoon to let other board members know you support the WT as they get ready to decide whether to reauthorize the Ferry District levy (or e-mailing your support):
That hearing, again, is 1:30 pm Monday at the Council Chambers in the King County Courthouse downtown. (And if you just can’t be there, e-mail your thoughts about the Water Taxi to email@example.com) Meantime, one last tidbit of video — one of those clips that would wind up on the cutting-room floor but the Internet is infinite, so we’re tacking it on for those who like to see behind the scenes too – following the Moose and Councilmember Constantine over to the boat next door for the media briefing: Click to read the rest of Remember, no more Elliott Bay Water Taxi — till 2009…
Moments ago, that’s County Councilmember Dow Constantine and the Mariner Moose on board the Water Taxi with us and dozens of others – we’re publishing this from the lower deck (too rainy to be out on the upper deck, darn), on our way downtown for a media briefing on the WT’s recordsetting ’08 season, which ends after the last run tonight. West Seattle Chamber of Commerce executive director Patti Mullen is on board too and she will be part of the media briefing as well. More later! 11:59 AM UPDATE: Media briefing’s over. Here’s a group shot of everybody who spoke:
From left, Rob Johnson from the Transportation Choices Coalition; you know the next two; Patti Mullen from the WS Chamber; and Argosy Cruises CEO Kevin Clark, who paid tribute to the 10-year partnership his company has had with the Water Taxi program (first run, 5/23/98). The briefing, by the way, was on a bigger boat next to the Water Taxi’s mooring, Argosy’s Spirit of Seattle – the WT had to continue on its regular schedule. Councilmember Constantine, who spoke as chair of the King County Ferry District executive committee, said WT ridership has grown 70 percent in the past three years (almost 107K in 2005, almost 192K this year). It is scheduled to go year-round in 2010. Remember that hearing coming up Monday, as mentioned here; we’ll add a WT update later today/tonight with some video from today’s briefing – meantime, you can read the full, official news season-ender news release here – also added, a photo of The Moose at the Water Taxi wheel: Click to read the rest of On board the Elliott Bay Water Taxi on its last day of ’08…
RIDE THE WATER TAXI WITH THE MARINER MOOSE: Reminder, that’s at 11 am today. After tonight, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s docked till next year.
WESTWOOD VILLAGE TRICK OR TREATING: 5-7 pm. Full Halloween list is on the Holidays page; West Seattle Weekend Lineup‘s coming up shortly too.
FOLLOW THE WEST SEATTLE HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL GAME TONIGHT VIA OUR TWITTER UPDATES: In case you can’t get to the big game at Memorial Stadium — by popular demand, we are moving the updates OFF the regular westseattleblog twitter account. Co-publisher Patrick, who has been reporting on the games in recent weeks both during and after, will have running updates on his account, wsbbizdev - watch it on the Web at twitter.com/wsbbizdev, and you will also see it on our WSB Twitter page, which explains a little more about what Twitter is if you’re not using it. We’ll also temporarily add a sidebar box to this page below the turquoise one where our latest Twitter update can always be found.
Just got word from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s office that not only will there be free coffee and donuts on the final morning of the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s 2008 season tomorrow (6:30-9:30 am), you also have a chance to ride the Water Taxi with the ever-popular (no matter how the team’s doing) Mariner Moose. On the 11 am Water Taxi run tomorrow, the Moose will become this year’s recordbreaking 182,000th Water Taxi passenger by accompanying Councilmember Constantine on a WT ride from Seacrest to Pier 55, where the trip will be followed by a media event celebrating the WT’s big year and looking ahead. They’d love to have company onboard, so if you’re able to ride the WT at 11 am tomorrow, join the fun.
Meantime, the invitation is also renewed for you to come speak to the King County Council on Monday at its public hearing about the King County Ferry District. That’s the agency created last year to oversee the Water Taxi, the Vashon passenger ferry, and an exploration of more water-transit routes around the metro area. Its money comes from a countywide levy that totals about $22 a year for the owner of a home worth $400,000, but that levy has to be renewed each year, and there are some in county government who are interested in scaling that back or even eliminating it – so if the Water Taxi is important to you, this is the time to speak up, because the reauthorization vote is just a few weeks away. Monday’s public hearing is at 1:30 pm in the County Council chambers on the 10th floor of the courthouse (map) downtown (more information on this flyer, which also notes that if you cannot be there in person, you can e-mail your opinion on reauthorizing the KCFD to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tomorrow’s the last day of the year for the Elliott Bay Water Taxi – but if the forecast holds, today may be the last chance to ride it in dry weather. Friday’s bound to be fun no matter what, with free coffee and donuts promised between 6:30 and 9:30 am in honor of the final morning commute (as reported here last week, along with information on two ways to show your support for the Water Taxi and its new parent agency, the King County Ferry District).
Meredith sends word (and photo) of something new at solar-powered Red Cup Espresso: “Friday Night Dominos game night starting at 7:00 p.m. (This week) at 9:00, a table of four was still at it and the drive-thru was open for business. Community members welcome to come play any Friday, or ask for a set of dominos to play any time you actually come in and sit.” Now, on to a Saturday night scene:
11 pm at Seacrest, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi was about to take off on its last run of the last Saturday night of the year. As reported here the other day, morning commuters will get special thank-you treats this Friday, and Water Taxi supporters are invited to let the county know they’re behind the service, as King County Ferry District reauthorization nears. Last but not least, from WSB contributing photojournalist Matt Durham, a scene that followed all this: “A day of trick or treating ends for this little rescue hero as he strolls away from the Alaska Junction Saturday afternoon.”
Prints of Matt’s work are available through his site, mattdurhamphotography.com.
Just one week to go till the Elliott Bay Water Taxi‘s last day of the ’08 season – after Halloween night, it’s done for the year. We got word today from Chris Arkills in County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s office of not only some special plans for the final day, but also of something you can do to voice your support for the Water Taxi’s future – here’s the update from Chris:
The last day of the 2008 Elliott Bay Water Taxi season is Friday, October 31. This year’s season has been another recordbreaking year. As of the end of September, the Water Taxi carried 169,349 passengers in five months. Last year the Water Taxi carried 166,000 riders through October, so we will be setting a new record for ridership. Preliminary numbers from October indicate that there is still a strong and dedicated ridership for the Elliott Bay Water Taxi even as the fall weather has rolled in and the tourists have left town for the most part.
With one week of service left, it is a great time to get on the Water Taxi a few more times. Take a trip downtown or mix the Water Taxi into your commute. As a way of thanking the loyal commuters who ride the boat downtown every morning, there will be free coffee and donuts on the morning commuter runs between 6:30 and 9:30 on the last day. We hope you can join us on Halloween morning or sometime this coming week to ride one more time.
We are also tentatively planning a press conference midday on October 31 at Pier 55 to speak about the success of the 2008 season and to discuss plans for the future. Details will be coming soon about the actual time and the speakers attending and we will share them with West Seattle Blog early next week.
But while the season has been very successful, there are also challenges to the King County Ferry District as well. The Ferry District was created last year to take over the Vashon Island passenger ferry, the Elliott Bay Water Taxi, and to establish up to five new demonstration routes on Lake Washington and Puget Sound. Each year the Ferry District tax must be reauthorized and there are some in the county who do not support waterborne transportation.
There is a public hearing on the Ferry District scheduled for November 3rd at 1:30 at the King County Council Chambers on the 10th floor of the King County Courthouse, 516 Third Avenue (Third and James), Seattle. It is important the the other members of the King County Council hear how much the Elliott Bay Water Taxi means to West Seattle. If you can spare the time to attend and testify we encourage you to do so. Speakers usually have 2-3 minutes to speak. If you can’t attend but want the Council to know how you feel about keeping the Water Taxi and the King County Ferry District moving forward, please consider sending them an e-mail. It is important for other areas of the county to understand what an important asset the Elliott Bay Water Taxi is to West Seattle and how its success can be replicated around the county. Contact information for members can be found here:
The vote on reauthorizing the King County Ferry District will occur on November 17, so it is important to share your views on the Elliott Bay Water Taxi and the Ferry District as soon as possible.
Just in from King County Councilmember Dow Constantine‘s office, the official announcement:
With a month left in the 2008 sailing season the Elliott Bay Water Taxi continues to attract new passengers—and break records.
A total of 167,748 riders used the West Seattle-to-downtown foot ferry through the end of September, exceeding last year’s record of 161,331 riders. September 2008 ridership was up 9.7 percent over last September’s totals.
“The Water Taxi has routinely exceeded its 2007 ridership totals all summer,” said King County Councilmember Dow Constantine. “This puts another record year on the books as we look forward to year-round Water Taxi operation in 2010.”
The King County Ferry District took over Water Taxi funding earlier this year. This countywide special district also funds the operation of the Vashon Island-to-downtown passenger-only ferry and is expected to add up to five demonstration routes serving other Puget Sound and Lake Washington communities in the next few years. … The 2008 Water Taxi season runs through Friday, Oct. 31.
Header image by Nick Adams. ABSOLUTELY NO WSB PHOTO REUSE WITHOUT SITE OWNERS' PERMISSION.
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