No downtown Water Taxi dock? Councilmember sounds alarm

Could the King County Water Taxi – for both West Seattle and Vashon – wind up with no place to land downtown? Right now it’s using a dock that the state originally built when it offered passenger-only service (including the Seattle-Vashon run that the county took over). But County Councilmember Joe McDermott says the downtown dock’s future may not include a replacement for Pier 50, and he says the time to speak out about that is now:

I started Valentine’s Day by showing some love for the Water Taxi! At 6:30 this morning I started meeting Passenger Only (PO) Ferries arriving in Downtown Seattle to pass out fliers encouraging people to offer comment on the Washington State Ferries plan to replace the aging Colman Dock. While the project is very much needed, the current plans for the project do not include passenger-only facilities.

With 31,981 riders using the water taxi each month in 2011, the current PO dock at Colman Dock, not including the Port of Kingston service or the service Kitsap Transit is about to begin from Bremerton, a well-located and viable passenger only dock is essential to strong transit options. Express your opinion at a public meeting sponsored by Washington State Ferries:

Thursday, February 16, 2012
3:30 – 6:00 PM
Puget Sound Regional Council
Board Room
1011 Western Ave., Suite 500, Seattle

If people can’t attend the meeting on Thursday, they should provide their comment online at:

or via US Mail:

Washington State Ferries
Attn: Marsha Tolon, WSF Project Environmental Manager
2901 3rd Avenue, Suite 500
Seattle, WA 98121

I thank everyone for sharing their love with the Water Taxi and taking the time to provide their comments to WSF! Happy Valentine’s Day!

21 Replies to "No downtown Water Taxi dock? Councilmember sounds alarm"

  • BD February 14, 2012 (2:49 pm)

    Thanks for the heads up about this. What are they thinking? I will send a letter in to the address listed.

  • Tuesday February 14, 2012 (3:07 pm)

    Something about this doesn’t make sense. Are they planning on eliminating the water taxi service from West Seattle and Vashon? After all, they don’t go anywhere else. If there’s no place to offload passengers, then the answer is yes. If not, there obviously must be some plan, right? Seems like something is missing from this whole scenario… Can anyone fill in the blanks?

  • Always confused February 14, 2012 (3:18 pm)

    I don’t think I’m understanding this. They want to replace Coleman Dock but not provide any downtown dock to accommodate any of these passenger ferries while it’s under construction? That can’t be it. Maybe the whole plan hasn’t been revealed? Pier 55 (the original dock) isn’t an option? Seems logical without having to do a whole public outreach and schedule a bunch of meetings.

  • junebug February 14, 2012 (3:53 pm)

    Thanks for being out at the downtown dock early this morning, Joe McDermott! This is the kind of proactive action I want from our councilmembers. I looked at the flier he was handing out, followed the link and saw this info: “The project would remove the leased passenger-only facility when construction begins in 2015. WSF is coordinating with passenger-only operators.”
    It sounds like that refers to the water taxi. I’ve recently started taking the water taxi and I’m alarmed. This is THE fastest way to get downtown from WS–10 minutes, each way–rain, snow or sunshine. I’m going to try and attend the meeting tomorrow to make sure the project manager is aware that the water taxi is important. I suggest we all make our voices heard.

  • BD February 14, 2012 (3:53 pm)

    The “They” you are referring to is Washington State Ferries. “They” no longer care about passenger ferries. “They” will care if we call them out on this omission.

  • Sarah Schosboek February 14, 2012 (4:09 pm)

    Yes their plan is to exclude EVERY destination except one. Bremerton, Kingston, Vashon (Southworth uses) West Seattle. SO actually all that will be survived is Bainbridge!!

  • Mark K February 14, 2012 (4:35 pm)

    I’m suspicious of the Councilman’s motives here. I seem to recall reading in the newsletter on the Rachel Marie that the County Ferry District was actively looking for a location for a permanent home, for their own operations and to accommodate increased passenger-only service to downtown (I believe another run starting in the next year from the Kitsap peninsula?).
    Now he’s raising an alarm about the State not providing space for a service that the STATE does not provide, nor gains anything from (in some cases it may take away business from Washington State Ferries).
    I plan to pick up the newsletter tonight on my way home, and compare what each is saying, and contact the Ferry District directly to inquire.
    If the Ferry District is still looking for their own permanent home, Councilman McDermott will be receiving a letter from me about this.

  • Mark K February 14, 2012 (4:39 pm)

    Always Confused – Pier 55 is the Argosy pier. Unless the service is turned over to Argosy again, it will not likely be used for the Water Taxi service.

  • rw February 14, 2012 (6:11 pm)

    It’s a large waterfront between Colman and the Port of Seattle hq with a number of docks, or space for potential docs. Just like any construction project I can understand that redevelopment of Colman will cramp the space available for people ferries. I also understand that the rebuild of the seawall in that area will further cramp space for potential passenger docks. But it is extremely hard to believe that no space could be made available at a reasonable cost for the water taxi and other passenger ferries.

  • Aman February 14, 2012 (6:16 pm)

    I too “smell a rat.”

  • WSB February 14, 2012 (8:09 pm)

    The exact language from the newsletter, which is available online ( ), is: “This will have an impact on the Pier 50 passenger-only terminal, so we will eventually have to find a new location for our downtown Seattle passenger hub.” What the Ferry District (whose board CM McDermott chairs, I believe) is working on its own permanent home for is, maintenance operations: “The King County Ferry District is building a 40-by- 140-foot moorage and maintenance barge that will be located at Pier 48. Construction started this month, and the barge is scheduled to be installed by August 1.” – TR

  • dsa February 14, 2012 (8:09 pm)

    Am I reading this correctly? A council member was target leafleting passengers. And he was doing it to encourage a letter campaign to WSDOT.

  • dsa February 14, 2012 (8:50 pm)

    My post broke a rule, or did I not send it?

  • Tuesday February 14, 2012 (8:53 pm)

    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if a “public servant” could be straight with the public about something? Just spell it out. You want the state to pay for something for the county’s use… just say it already. Why the call to arms without the full story? It doesn’t make people feel anything but manipulated.

    • WSB February 14, 2012 (9:13 pm)

      The county leases Pier 50, as do the other services using it.

  • Mark K. February 14, 2012 (11:18 pm)

    Thank you, TR for posting the text from the newsletter. In my brief look at the site, I couldn’t find it. I do think that this whole thing is a bit sneaky. As you mention, Pier 50 is leased from WSF. As landlords, they have the option to not renew leases, and with the construction and such, it makes sense not to, if they will need that space.
    To tell the public to write to WSF to get them to accommodate a competing service in their facilities is a bit much. If King County wants to run a ferry service, they need to be ready to provide their own facilities all around. Time for the ferry district to grow up. I hope they can, as I ride daily and enjoy having that alternative to the bus.

  • redblack February 15, 2012 (6:13 am)

    if WSDOT had any vision at all, they would design a dock that has multiple uses, including multiple passenger-only slips – for their own use or for someone else to lease.
    and if KC water taxi district has the cash, they should lease a slip at pier 91, as well as downtown, so that passengers could bypass downtown when heading north.

  • LE February 15, 2012 (11:39 am)

    Gee, and here I thought it had become a rather well-established consensus that our future downtown Seattle waterfront isn’t going to be about transportation in and out of the core of the city. Isn’t that the whole point behind the tunnel?

  • Ex-Westwood Resident February 15, 2012 (1:38 pm)

    If they REALLY wanted to make the foot ferries a transportation option to the downtown core I would think that they would want it closer to the core…in other words further north of the current pier 50 location, NOT further south at pier 48.

  • BD February 15, 2012 (2:06 pm)

    Once again here is an example of the left hand having no idea what the right hand is doing.

  • jfh February 16, 2012 (2:05 pm)

    Returning the ferry to Pier 55 is a no-brainer! This site has immediate access to the central waterfront; Pike Street Market is nearby; Red Robin restaurant is on the same pier and other restaurants are nearby. It was far cheaper when Argosy Cruises ran the ferry with this great location. Let’s end the gold-brick county ferry system and return to Argosy’s cheaper and reliable operation.

Sorry, comment time is over.