West Seattle, Washington
Ridership last month on both King County Water Taxi routes set September records, the county DOT says. The new numbers were published today, including:
The West Seattle route (had) 42,444 riders in September, up from 41,057 during the same month last year, representing a 3.4-percent increase.
Total year-to-date ridership is slightly down from last year’s record pace, the report adds, while noting various potential factors likely playing into that, including the five-day service interruption in August when the downtown dock was moved to its temporary location while its new permanent terminal is built. You can see a full month-by-month breakdown via the Data tab on this page of the Water Taxi website. October 29th, by the way, is the last day of this year’s seven-day-a-week schedule; you can preview the weekday-only winter schedule here.
What a way to start the day! Thanks to the King County Water Taxi‘s West Seattle crew for sharing that video – from the Doc Maynard, they saw orcas on this morning’s 6:15 and 6:35 am sailings, Frank Massaro tells WSB, adding that crew member Jade Farrar recorded the video during the latter.
With a Sunday night Sounders FC match, the West Seattle Water Taxi will be on its extended schedule all weekend, as announced tonight. And in case this weekend will be the first time you’ve taken the WSWT since its dock and schedule change – see the new schedule here; last trip from the new dock north of the state-ferry terminal tonight, Saturday, and this Sunday will be 10:45 pm.
The Water Taxi website says it’s official: “King County Water Taxi will resume service out of its temporary location at Pier 52 beginning Saturday, Aug. 12 for the West Seattle route, which will operate on a new sailing schedule. The Vashon Island route will resume service on its normal sailing schedule beginning Monday, Aug. 14.” Both routes have been out of service since Monday so that the dock could move from the south side of the main downtown ferry terminal to the north side (see map above). It’ll be there for about a year and a half while the new passenger-ferry terminal is built on the site of the old one.
As noted here, we asked the county for a Water Taxi update earlier today – how the move to the new temporary dock is going, and whether service might resume short of the “up to one week” that they said they’d need. Tonight, Water Taxi spokesperson Brent Champaco tells us that West Seattle service could resume as soon as Saturday – and that’s also just been published on the Water Taxi website. So – definitely no service tomorrow (Friday, August 11th), but the county will determine whether they’ll be ready to go on Saturday, which would be good because the Mariners and Sounders both play at home. (The Vashon Water Taxi would resume Monday, since it doesn’t run weekends anyway.) So watch for an update tomorrow.
6:39 AM: Welcome to a new week! No incidents in/from West Seattle so far.
NO WATER TAXI SERVICE: Today’s biggest alert – this is the first day of up to a week without King County Water Taxi service. Both the West Seattle and Vashon runs are on hiatus until the new temporary dock on the north side of the downtown ferry terminal is ready to go – as recapped in our reminder published last night.
PAVING REMINDER: Both Beach Drive near Andover and 63rd SW north of Admiral have paving projects in progress. At week’s end, SDOT said that the 63rd project would continue through tomorrow.
STATE FERRIES: The M/V Issaquah, which had mechanical trouble yesterday and left the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route for a while, is repaired and back in service, WSF says.
8 AM: WSF now reports fog delays of up to 20 minutes on the route.
One more reminder: The King County Water Taxi is out of service as of tomorrow (Monday, August 7th), for up to a week. That’s a shorter maximum duration than what was originally announced in June, when KCDOT first said a service interruption would be needed for the move to a temporary downtown dock to be used during the overhaul of the permanent site on the south side of Colman Dock. Then in June, a followup announcement included the start date for the interruption, plus the plan for it to last no more than a week. When service resumes, the Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit‘s foot ferries will be using the new temporary dock, which is under construction as of last Monday (WSB coverage here) on the north side of Colman Dock. The temp dock will be in use for about a year and a half, with a revised schedule (find it here), too.
That’s the first of nine piles, each up to 100 feet tall and 3 feet wide, that’ll be driven for the new temporary King County Water Taxi and Kitsap Transit foot-ferry dock on the north side of Washington State Ferries‘ main downtown terminal Colman Dock. The work is starting right now, and we’re at Colman Dock for a media briefing.
As reported here previously, the Water Taxi will suspend service for up to a week, starting next Monday (August 7th), so it can move operations to the temporary dock by the following Monday (August 14th). (Added: Here’s video of Water Taxi spokesperson Brent Champaco:)
The temporary dock is expected to be in use for up to a year and a half while the new passenger-only-ferry terminal is built on the south side of Colman Dock, in the same spot where the current one is. Colman Dock itself also will be renovated/rebuilt over the next five years.
In comments after previous reports, some have wondered why work is starting now, during the peak of summer; at today’s media briefing, it was reiterated that this is because today is the first day of the six-and-a-half month annual period to which in-water construction is limited, to protect salmon and other wildlife. If the full construction period isn’t utilized each year, the completion of the full Colman Dock project could be delayed. And here’s one reason why they need to get going – a section of an old piling with holes from gribbles:
So to recap: No Water Taxi for up to a week starting next Monday; once service resumes, the downtown dock will be in its new temporary location north of Colman Dock, by the waterfront fire station. (Side note: Kitsap Transit’s foot ferry is continuing service during the switch by using Pier 54, further north; Water Taxi reps explain their vessels are too big for that.) More photos/info to come.
The latest government service/agency/etc. asking for your feedback via an online survey – the King County Water Taxi. The new survey is phrased as if you are on board, so if you aren’t riding it today, you might consider answering from the standpoint of your most recent ride, or the reasons you usually use it, even if you only ride a few times a year. The survey starts here.
The WT website Captain’s Blog also provides two updates of potential interest to Water Taxi riders. The newest is about the soon-to-start Colman Dock overhaul that will result in a new foot-ferry terminal; read it here. It’s also a reminder that one week from Monday – starting August 7th – Water Taxi service will be interrupted for up to a week while its downtown terminal moves to an interim location north of Colman Dock.
The other notable update has some new numbers on Water Taxi ridership, including a 7.2 percent increase on the West Seattle run last month over the same period last year. But month-by-month numbers on the “data” tab of this WT-website page have not been updated since the end of last year.
A texter thought some West Seattle Water Taxi riders might want to know that the run is using the smaller Spirit of Kingston right now, and filled up the 5:15 pm run. We’re checking with King County DOT but there are a few factors here – one, the Mariners played a day game, and though it’s been over for two hours, there could be some extra traffic; two, the King County Sheriff’s Office maritime drill is using a Water Taxi vessel, as noted in our daily preview – from MarineTraffic.com, it appears the Sally Fox is that boat, and has been replaced on the Vashon run by the Doc Maynard, resulting in the Spirit of Kingston taking the WS run.
One month ago, we received and published an alert saying that King County Water Taxi service – both West Seattle and Vashon – would be interrupted in August so the downtown dock could be moved when Colman Dock‘s remodeling project revved up.
At the time, the start date was TBA, and the length was described as up to 10 days. Late last night, Water Taxi spokesperson Brent Champaco sent word that the start date is now set: August 7th is the first day of the service suspension, which will last “up to a week.” During that time, the downtown terminal will be moved from the south side of Colman Dock to the north side. It’s expected to remain there into fall of next year, while the new passenger-only ferry terminal is built at Pier 50, for both the Water Taxi and the new Kitsap Fast Ferries service.
As also mentioned in the June announcement, the Water Taxi schedule will change when service resumes from the temporary terminal (see the revised schedule here).
One more note: Water Taxi shuttle-bus routes 773 and 775 will continue running during the August boat-service suspension, the county says.
You’ve probably heard about the big Colman Dock modernization project downtown. It involves the downtown dock for the West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxis as well as Washington State Ferries, and it’s about to get going in a big way. As a result, the King County Department of Transportation is out with a two-part alert this afternoon for Water Taxi users. The biggest part is that the downtown dock will move to a temporary location for about a year and a half, with a revised schedule. And while that move is made, there’ll be a service interruption of up to 10 days. Here’s the official announcement:
Both routes of the popular foot and bike ferry service will be suspended while construction crews move the Water Taxi’s float at Pier 50 on the south end of Colman dock to the north end (toward the fire station and Ivar’s restaurant).
The temporary move is part of a larger project by the state to renovate Colman Dock. The Water Taxi will move back to a new King County owned facility at the south end of the dock in about a year and a half.
The new Water Taxi terminal will have a weather-protected waiting area as well as elevators and a pedestrian bridge to the new Washington State Ferries terminal and its amenities.
While service is suspended in August, bus riders in both service areas can expect to see heavier-than-usual passenger loads on trips to and from downtown.
· Buses—Metro’s Rapid Ride C Line and routes 21, 37, 55, 56, 57, 120, and 125 connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle. Route 116 connects the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal to downtown Seattle.
· Light rail—Metro Route 50 connects West Seattle to Link light rail at the Columbia City Station.
· Ride sharing—Learn about Carpool, VanPool, and other ride-sharing options at kingcounty.gov/metro/rideshare or contact your employer.
· Telecommuting and alternate work schedules—If your employer allows you to work from home or flex your schedule to avoid peak commute times, you can both bypass and help reduce crowding on buses while the Water Taxi is out of service.
New sailing schedule for West Seattle
When the Water Taxi resumes service after its move to the north side of Colman Dock, the West Seattle route will be on a new schedule. [PDF version here] This will account for the time it takes to board and de-board the route’s growing number of riders, and allow for Washington State Ferries to cross the Water Taxi’s route when arriving and departing from Colman Dock.
To learn more about the move, new facilities, or the new West Seattle schedule, come to an open house on June 21 at Pier 50 (801 Alaskan Way on the Seattle waterfront). Look for the King County Water Taxi tent and drop in any time between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m.
1:21 PM: As noted earlier, today marks the start of the all-day, 7-days-a-week schedule for the West Seattle Water Taxi. And it marks the debut of the new Water Taxi system logo on MV Doc Maynard. We first told you on April 1st about the impending rebranding of the Water Taxi, after it appeared on at least one shuttle bus. At the time, King County was planning an announcement for last Monday, but it was postponed until today. We’ve just received photos and background info from KC Department of Transportation spokesperson Scott Gutierrez:
The Doc Maynard is now sporting the new Water Taxi logo.
The Water Taxi program logo was carefully thought out to be simple, unique and bold. It is designed in a manner that depicts the shape of the Water Taxi vessel. The logo features various elements that are signature to our service:
· Sun and Water – the program brand mark is a conceptual, dual-purpose graphic depicting the Water Taxi and the sun over water. It represents speed, reliability and the Seattle waterscape.
· Speed and Agility – the sleek flavor reflects the design of the Water Taxi’s two catamarans, the MV Sally Fox and MV Doc Maynard.
· Landscape – a reflection of the rider experience on the Water Taxi, whether the destination is Downtown Seattle, West Seattle or Vashon Island.
Last winter, King County DOT — led by graphic designer Amy Sanders — developed new branding for the Water Taxi. This entirely in-house effort — buoyed by support from talented Metro and Department of Natural Resource and Parks graphic designers — showcases a new logo and program mark. The Water Taxi saved some $35,000 by not hiring a consultant and instead relying on in-house talent to develop and design the new branding.
Riders will also notice new branding on the Water Taxi’s printed schedules and website. Riders will begin seeing the new look on the uniforms of our dedicated crew members later this month.
We have a followup question out on what the total cost was/will be, with the savings mentioned above – as noted in our April 1st report, this year’s county budget had included $144,000 for the first rebranding since 2009, when the Water Taxi was part of a no-longer-separate KC Ferry District.
7:06 PM: Gutierrez says the cost breakdown should be available tomorrow. He adds that the Vashon Water Taxi vessel, MV Sally Fox, is expected to get the “rebranding” look next weekend, weather permitting.
ADDED TUESDAY AFTERNOON: As promised, the cost info, from spokesperson Gutierrez:
The actual cost is about $50,000 for the vessel and shuttle rebranding, marketing materials, uniforms, and facility signage. That is below the total $144,000 that Marine Division was budgeted for rebranding over the biennium. We estimate saving about $35,000 alone by not hiring outside consultants and designers, and instead relying on in-house employees to develop and design the new branding. Other savings were mostly a result of the vessel work (vinyl decal/wrapping) and new uniforms coming in below budget.
If you’ve missed the reminders in our weekday traffic coverage – tomorrow (Monday, April 10th) brings the annual return of the West Seattle Water Taxi‘s all-day, 7-days-a-week schedule. In the offseason, the service runs weekdays only, am and pm commute periods only, with no extended service for evening sports events, but starting tomorrow, that all changes. The spring-summer schedule includes later evening runs on Fridays and Saturdays. You can preview it at the bottom of this page.
P.S. The free Water Taxi shuttle buses expand service tomorrow to match the boat schedules, too.
8:37 PM SATURDAY: If you’ve noticed the new look for the King County Water Taxi shuttle – we did too, and tried to find out more about it, and whether it’ll be on the boats too, but the KC Department of Transportation would only say that an announcement is likely on Monday (and that they’d posted a hint on Instagram). We looked into the county budget and it does include a $144,000 item for “rebranding” the Water Taxi, saying that the current branding goes back to when it was part of the King County Ferry District in 2009, before the county merged the Water Taxi back into its DOT as the Marine Division. The budget item mentions rebranding for boats, uniforms, “publicly visible materials.” Meantime, if you missed this news, the backup boat Spirit of Kingston is in the shop right now getting new engines. And as we’ve mentioned a few times, the seven-day-a-week Water Taxi schedule returns on April 10th – one week from Monday.
8:40 PM SUNDAY: KCDOT spokesperson Brent Champaco tells us tonight that the announcement has been delayed – no new date yet.
(Monday afternoon photo by Anand Rajaratnam, before sold-out 4:45 run)
If you took – or tried to take – the Water Taxi home to West Seattle during Monday’s tanker-crash freeway shutdown, you know it was a hot ticket. How hot? We just checked with King County Department of Transportation’s Brent Champaco, who confirms that, as readers told us, the 4:45 and 5:15 runs sold out, and that overall: “The Water Taxi carried 1,200 riders on the evening West Seattle routes. For reference, the typical ridership number for an evening commute in February is 366.” Champaco says that by evening’s end, though, nobody was left behind: “Our crews were able to get everyone who was waiting for a trip to West Seattle onboard by the final scheduled run at 6:45 p.m. Big kudos to our crews.” Might not have worked out that way before January 2016, when the M/V Doc Maynard became West Seattle’s Water Taxi vessel, with capacity of 271, more than double its predecessor, the Spirit of Kingston (which the county has kept as a backup boat).
P.S. If you’re interested in the comparison, here’s our story with the early Water Taxi stats from last year’s tunneling-related Viaduct closure. (Of course, people had advance warning for that.)
Just in from King County Water Taxi management, a reminder that both WT routes – West Seattle and Vashon – will be out of service on Thanksgiving Day and the day after, so after tomorrow, the next day of service will be Monday. Also, if you were wondering too, no extended service for tonight’s Sounders FC playoff match; King County doesn’t do that during the reduced-schedule fall/winter months.
The King County Council has finalized its budget. Back in September, we mentioned two items in County Executive Dow Constantine‘s original proposal, so here’s an update on how those fared:
The first was a plan to cut the KC Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit, which would have meant no more helicopter availability for Seattle Police as well as other agencies assisted by the KCSO helicopters. The final budget did NOT include that cut, so the helicopter will stay in service.
Second, the proposal to provide “stable funding” for the King County Water Taxi (West Seattle to downtown and Vashon Island to downtown) stayed in the budget, according to a statement from King County Council chair Joe McDermott, who represents the areas served by the Water Taxi. As we reported in September, the funding will come from a levy that is already in place, originally intended for the Water Taxi, then shifted to buses, now shifted back.
Two West Seattle Water Taxi notes this morning:
EXTENDED SCHEDULE ON THURSDAY: Just announced via text and on the WT website, the West Seattle Water Taxi will run on an extended schedule this Thursday, for the Sounders FC playoff match. The times are on the schedule page.
LAST WEEK OF THIS YEAR’S 7-DAY-A-WEEK SCHEDULE: This also gives us the opportunity to mention that it’s the final week of this year’s seven-day-a-week schedule – after next Sunday, the 5-day-a-week fall/winter schedule begins on Monday (October 31st). You can also preview that on the WSWT schedule page. The 5-day-a-week schedule runs through March 31, 2017.
The King County Department of Transportation says its West Seattle and Vashon Island Water Taxi runs already have passed last year’s total of 515,000 boardings, with two and a half months left in 2016. 339,479 riders were on the WS run, with 175,575 to/from Vashon, the county says, noting that this year’s spikes included the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure last spring and busier summer months than usual – 24,000 extra riders in June, July, and August.
You might recall that the West Seattle run used to shut down entirely during the fall and winter months, but that changed six years ago, and it now runs five days a week during the cooler months; this year’s weekday-only schedule starts on Halloween, two weeks from today.
Also coming up this fall: The King County Council will decide whether to approve County Executive Dow Constantine‘s proposal for stable, permanent funding for the Water Taxi, shifting $9 million in levy money that had been going to buses, but not increasing what taxpayers pay.
Read the official ridership-milestone announcement here.
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
So far we’ve found two big items of interest in King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s two-year budget proposal, made public this morning.
*The King County Water Taxi, serving West Seattle and Vashon, would have a “stable source” of funding – 1.25 cents per $1,000 valuation. The levy was reduced in 2009 and “reserves” have been used since then, but, says the budget book, “those reserves are now exhausted.”
*The King County Air Support Unit, including this area’s only law-enforcement helicopter Guardian One, will be shut down by 2018 unless, Constantine says, there’s tax reform. In 2017 it would be limited to search-and-rescue operations in King County; in 2018, it would be shut down entirely.
First, the Water Taxi toplines, from the 753-page full budget document:
*The county currently has been taxing for the passenger-ferry service at a third of a cent per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That funding has been supplemented by reserves that the budget says have run out. Constantine proposes increasing the tax rate to 1.25 cents per $1,000 starting next year because the service is “no longer able to draw on reserves to stay afloat.” (Math = $2/year now if your property is assessed at $600,000; just under $8/year with the increase.) Without that increase, next year wouldrun $3 million short. The gap already has been narrowed, the budget book points out, by “efficiencies” enabling the new boats to be operated with a crew of 3 rather than 4.
(added 6:53 pm) King County DOT spokesperson Jeff Switzer sent this clarification:
Taxes won’t be going up as a result of this budget.
The collected property tax amount will stay the same, meaning the county will reduce the property tax collected for Metro by just over $9 million, and the property tax collected for Water Taxi (Marine) will be increased by just over $9 million. No net dollar increase in property tax collections for marine/transit.
The budget calls for another fare increase in 2018, 50 cents for adults, to continue its every-two-year increases.
And one more major Water Taxi note – while there’s no money for it in this two-year budget, there is a line item to “plan, design, and construct a new West Seattle (Water Taxi) terminal during the 2019-2010 budget cycle,” noting that Seacrest has always been meant as just a “temporary” terminal.
*Next, the helicopter elimination, which is just one of several major public-safety cuts in the county executive’s budget, explained in the news release about the budget, with a call for “local tax reform”:
… King County’s General Fund primarily supports criminal justice and other functions required by the state. About 59 percent of net General Fund revenues come from property taxes. The balance is comprised of sales tax and other sources.
In 2007, legislators reinstated Tim Eyman’s I-747, which had been tossed out by the state Supreme Court. The law arbitrarily limited revenue growth in most property taxes to 1 percent annually. The value of new construction is added to the tax base, which amounts to about 0.5 percent to 2.0 percent depending on the economy.
Because property tax is limited below the rate of population growth and inflation, the General Fund is chronically stressed. Last year, about 37,000 people moved to King County, adding to the demands for transit, behavioral and mental health programs, public safety, and other services.
Over the last few months, Executive Constantine worked with the Office of Performance, Strategy, and Budget, county departments, and elected officials to balance the $1.6 billion General Fund budget. Through a mix of revenue changes, efficiencies, and spending reductions, Executive Constantine resolved a $22.4 million shortfall.
Program cuts and service reductions in this budget include:
*Reductions in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
*Closing the work release facility and electronic home detention programs by Jan. 1, 2018.
*Eliminating inmate booking at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent as of Jan. 1, 2018.
*Eliminating the King County Sheriff’s Office air support and marine units by Jan. 1, 2018.
“We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, but let there be no mistake — unless the Legislature fixes the problem, these reductions will only get worse over time,” said Executive Constantine. “And local governments across the state face the identical situation.”
While Guardian One is operated by King County, it is the only helicopter available for regional law-enforcement agencies including Seattle Police.
We’re still reading the county budget and will report on anything else of direct local interest. It now will go through a review-and-comment process in the weeks ahead – find the details here. Our area’s County Councilmember is Joe McDermott, so if you have something to say about these issues or others in the budget, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
10:24 PM: Thanks for the tips on this – the 9:30 West Seattle Water Taxi run from downtown, and 10 pm run from Seacrest, have been canceled, and multiple passengers waiting on the downtown dock tell us they were told a “security breach” is to blame, but that there’ll be a sailing from downtown soon. The first tipster tells us – and the online Water Taxi Watch verifies – that the Doc Maynard was parked at the nearby maintenance barge instead of Pier 50 while this was investigated. Working to find out more.
10:39 PM: We’ve heard back from both Jeff Switzer with KC Department of Transportation and Greg Lerner from the Marine Division. Both say a trespasser was being investigated at the Water Taxi maintenance facility, that Seattle Police responded, and that passengers should be on a sailing headed this way shortly. Water Taxi Watch shows Doc Maynard has now moved over to Pier 50.
10:47 PM: One passenger tells us police are still in view, checking out the other two Water Taxi vessels (the maintenance barge is a short distance south of Pier 50 downtown). Vessel Watch shows Doc Maynard now headed this way.
We just checked on the West Seattle Water Taxi numbers for this morning – first commute post-Viaduct closure – after commenter Elton wondered how ridership had gone. From Greg Lerner of the King County Marine Division:
6:15 am – 52
6:45 am – 81
7:15 am – 115
7:45 am – 94
8:15 am – 78
8:45 am – 62
9:15 am – 45
That’s higher than the pre-closure norm, Lerner says, while about half of the ridership tallied last Monday, a Viaductless day with almost perfect weather, and the highest West Seattle ridership day of the entire closure, according to the county’s overview of how both WT runs did for the shutdown period:
The West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxi routes carried record numbers of riders during the 99 closure. Preliminary tallies from April 29 through May 7 show the two routes carried an estimated 30,000 riders, compared to about 13,500 riders the week before.
“We’re thankful to everyone who looked at other travel options besides driving during the closure, and thrilled to see ridership this high,” said Paul Brodeur, director of King County’s Marine Division. “We hope riders continue to see the water taxi as a good option for their trips to and from downtown.”
The West Seattle route roughly tripled its typical ridership as riders took advantage of additional parking options and regular spring service. The service on that route carried more than 24,000 riders compared to a typical 8,000 riders over the same time period. The single-day peak ridership to and from West Seattle was 3,269 riders on May 2, more than triple the riders compared to the week before.
Vashon route ridership climbed by a total of 900 riders during the 99 closure as riders took advantage of additional round trips. Ridership peaked at 1,100 on May 4 compared to about 900 the week before.
One last reminder in case you used it today: After last night’s earlier-than-projected reopening of the Alaskan Way Viaduct due to tunneling progress (now 342 of the originally announced 385 feet needed to totally clear the AWV), today was the last day of added Water Taxi parking and larger shuttles. The West Seattle Water Taxi runs year-round, weekdays in late fall/winter and seven days a week in spring/summer/early fall; its current schedule continues until October 30th. It’s been four months since the new vessel Doc Maynard took over the run, with a capacity of more than 270 passengers.