West Seattle Water Taxi update: Permit granted for dock work

(WSB photo from June 2009)
As previously reported, the dock at Seacrest used by the West Seattle-to-downtown run of the King County Water Taxi needs major upgrade work before the service can go year-round. This week, the construction permit was granted for the dock and piling replacement project (here’s the notice on the city website), as outlined in this rendering shown at a meeting earlier this year:

While Seacrest is a city Parks Department facility, the Water Taxi service is run by the county, which is responsible for the dock-upgrade project. When government offices reopen next week, we’ll check to see when the major work is scheduled to begin. Meantime, there are still financial issues to settle before long-term year-round service is guaranteed, as the footnote on this King County Ferry District webpage underscores. The service is scheduled to restart “seasonal” operations in spring, no matter what (likely April 4, according to the “work plan” adopted with the Ferry District budget in November). As the county is now running the service instead of Argosy, the boat and dock are scheduled to change as well – with a leased vessel running between Seacrest and Pier 50, south of Washington State Ferries‘ Colman Dock.

17 Replies to "West Seattle Water Taxi update: Permit granted for dock work"

  • ScottA December 26, 2009 (3:45 pm)

    I hope WSB can provide more details (or post a link) about how the change to County operations will change (or not change the service).
    I’ve used the Water Taxi a few times and have been impressed with the staff and timeliness. They seemed to be always friendly and slightly flexible in waiting for passengers (or even going back for a few late arrivals if there was time). The boat seemed appropriate for the task – not too big or small nor fancy or dumpy. I’m hoping the next boat isn’t as bad as say the shuttle buses that Sound Transit used to connect the Tukwila light rail station to the airport. Also, does the County hire Washington State Ferry employees or does the County hire new employees with the proper maritime licenses?
    What’s driving the change from Argosy? Will we save money? does it just look better politically to not hire a private company? is there pressure from unions? or has year round service always been expected to be operated by the County?

    • WSB December 26, 2009 (5:25 pm)

      ScottA, some of that will have to await followups next week but if you follow the link in the story to the “work plan,” there’s some info, including regarding the county’s plans for staffing. They already are staffing and operating, with a leased vessel, the Seattle-Vashon passenger run, which WSF gave up – little-known fact, apparently, it’s also now known as the Water Taxi (which is why I distinguish here “the West Seattle-downtown run of the King County Water Taxi”) – TR

  • dawsonct December 26, 2009 (6:00 pm)

    Great! Now of they would replace the two boats with four somewhat smaller, faster boats, it could be something more than Seattle’s aquatic monorail.

  • alki_2008 December 26, 2009 (6:01 pm)

    Was disappointed to see that the downtown drop-off point would be at Pier 50, instead of it’s current location at Pier 56. Personally, I probably won’t take the water taxi at all when it goes to Pier 50 – as I’d then have to transfer to a bus to get to work.
    I’d imagine that most commuters from Alki/West Seattle need to go further north than Pioneer Square. I wonder if the county did any research or surveys to see how ridership would change with a change in location?

  • dawsonct December 26, 2009 (6:07 pm)

    Having it close to the PP hill climb WAS more convenient.

  • JayDee December 26, 2009 (7:16 pm)

    Pier 50? That sucks. I work at 6th and Union, and asked many times if a landing to the south was in the works to no avail. I am truly amazed at government in action.

    I can imagine the dialog: “Let’s take a slow boat, replace it with a marginally faster (and smaller) boat, and land it…Hmm….6 blocks further south of downtown. Surely that will work better.”

    While I am a general supporter of the Water Taxi, this “improvement” will keep me on the 56 — the bus was faster most days but akin to a sardine can. I spent 45mins on the WT, but it was worth the 10-minute differential to have the general space and peace (in the AM) to myself. Unless that new boat is 6 minutes faster, the WT will be a cruise-ship/waterfront tourist “West Seattle is a island, right?” bauble.

  • Pam December 26, 2009 (7:33 pm)

    Wow, really pier 56? This will definately not be very convenient for most people going downtown. I wonder if that is a concern at all since we want people to stop driving downtown if they can! I use the water taxi all of the time and I will not be using it if it goes to pier 56, a bus from here would work better. So sad :-(

  • austin December 26, 2009 (7:53 pm)

    It’s not really that hard for most people to walk five extra minutes.

  • k December 26, 2009 (8:12 pm)

    year round water taxi? i’m in.

  • alki_2008 December 26, 2009 (10:00 pm)

    @austin – it’s not just an “extra five minutes” when it’s a chilly morning, you have to get to work by a specific time, you’re dressed in business clothes, and/or you’re carrying a heavy case of laptop/files for work.
    All I’m saying is that if year-round service was based on ridership numbers when the WT docked at Pier 56…then those same numbers can’t be extrapolated to docking at Pier 50.

    • WSB December 26, 2009 (10:30 pm)

      Another note about year-round service: Some of what’s coming into play here is mitigation of Viaduct construction effects – while under the current plan, The Viaduct is expected to stay open for most of the tunnel-construction period, there still will be delays and detours – not just during that phase of the work, but also during the south-end replacement work that gets under way next year – and the county has received some money from the state (earmarked right now for extra bus service) to help commuters deal with that. Regardless of where it docks, it’s surmised that the Water Taxi might be a more acceptable option if land-based travel becomes more difficult … remember the increased usage in summer of 2007 when that I-5 construction threatened to box things up for a while … TR

  • Keith December 26, 2009 (11:53 pm)

    Noted this item in the work plan:

    “1.2.5. King County shall work with the Policy Director to provide a recommendation to the Executive Committee by February 15, 2010 for shuttle route expansion in West Seattle and connecting transit service in downtown Seattle, as well as recommendations for cost efficiencies. ”

    So, all you Pier 56 loving people – get your letters in to the Policy Director ASAP! Perhaps they could create some sort of shuttle service or dedicated transit option on the downtown side, too.

  • Gina December 28, 2009 (11:05 am)

    Pier 50 is the Washington State Ferry dock? I’ll trade a 3 block walk for the pedestrian bridge over Alaskan Way to 1st Ave.

    • WSB December 28, 2009 (11:12 am)

      According to the city website, if Colman had a number instead of a name, it would be Pier 52. Pier 50 is the passenger-only dock immediately south – WSF used it when it operated Vashon and Bremerton foot ferries; the county now operates Vashon and uses 50, and will be consolidating the West Seattle run to go from there too – TR

  • Diane December 28, 2009 (7:49 pm)

    I walked down there tonight to see exactly where Pier 50 is located
    this should help Pioneer Square businesses; it’s right off Yesler

  • Chris Stefan January 2, 2010 (11:23 am)

    Pier 50 provides access to Metro routes 16 and 66 for those going further into downtown. In addition people can walk to the pedestrian bridge along Marion at the WSF terminal for access to the bus routes along First as well as Metro route 12 up to First Hill.

    Pier 56 has only two real transit options. The 99 shuttle that replaced the Waterfront Streetcar or a hike across Alaskan Way and up the hill to First.

  • Seattle Greg January 4, 2010 (10:48 am)

    Year Round West Seattle Service is yet another reason the Benson Trolley should be brought back to life, and extended north to Pier 91…

    Do not know the passenger counts off hand, but now that would be added to the 4.1 million walk on the WSF claims that use their terminal.

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