What you’ll pay to ride West Seattle’s Water Taxi when fares rise in March

(WSB photo from M/V Doc Maynard’s first morning on the West Seattle run, last week)

King County Water Taxi fares are going up on March 1st. We just found the new fares posted on the Water Taxi website – most fares on the West Seattle-to-downtown run are going up 50 cents each way, and most remain discounted if you use an ORCA card to pay:

When the system’s first-ever “strategic plan” was published a little more than a year ago, it pointed out that while “farebox recovery” was rising, the system was still operating unsustainably, and more had to be done to increase revenue. The county is also studying adding more routes – as noted in the newest Water Taxi newsletter, two on Lake Washington and one from downtown to Ballard are under discussion. Ridership on both existing routes – West Seattle and Vashon Island – set a record last year, surpassing half a million passengers.

24 Replies to "What you'll pay to ride West Seattle's Water Taxi when fares rise in March"

  • Ruth paulson January 18, 2016 (12:32 pm)

    If you multiply the new fare 3 times, they would break even on operating costs (but couldn’t cover new fancy boats). A big subsidy to benefit just a few. Of course, most pay with employer provided orca passports so they won’t collect much more there.

  • Bonnie January 18, 2016 (12:33 pm)

    I rarely ride the Water Taxi because it just simply costs too much.  I could drive and pay for parking for that price.  Of course, driving increases traffic but if I were carpooling it is much cheaper.  Love the water taxi, shouldn’t be so expensive.

  • Tobias January 18, 2016 (1:27 pm)

    Keeping fares low means we all pay to subsidize the few that actually use it. Better to raise the fare a bit and try and make it more sustainable. And it will certainly be worth the price in a few years as it becomes more and more brutal to bus downtown during commuting hours.

  • old timer January 18, 2016 (1:32 pm)

    IMO, at around $200 per month for a daily commute, which does not include the cost in money and time of getting to and from the dock, this Water Taxi seems to be a pretty expensive novelty for a select few.The tourists might like it, and I use it once and a while on a nice day for the ride,  but I have to devote a lot of time to the event.  

  • Mike January 18, 2016 (1:35 pm)

    ” I could drive and pay for parking for that price”  Not downtown you can’t, not for  all day parking.  However, I think it’s absurd they want to increase the cost of a ride rather than promoting and getting people to actually ride the water taxi.  I’d give it on average that about 20 people each ride in the early morning to downtown with 0-2 people returning to West Seattle and then the afternoon there’s about 20 people per ride from downtown to West Seattle with about 5-10 people returning to Seattle.  I love using it, but more people need to make use of these boats.  

    • newnative January 18, 2016 (3:06 pm)

      If you think those numbers are accurate for ridership, then you don’t know much about the water taxi.  Lots more people use it.  I couldn’t afford to use it everyday but once a week it cuts down on the stress of riding the bus home.

      • Mike January 19, 2016 (10:53 am)

        “If you think those numbers are accurate for ridership, then you don’t know much about the water taxi. “Really?  Odd, there was a grand total of 10 people on my ride on it this morning.

  • flynlo January 18, 2016 (2:57 pm)

    Typical government think – ” the system was still operating unsustainably, and more had to be done to increase revenue.”  So – let’s add more routes!!  Why don’t they look to the north where I believe that Vancouver water taxi’s are run by private enterprise. (and I doubt they are running at a loss!!)

  • Bonnie January 18, 2016 (3:05 pm)

    Mike, yes I could if I carpooled.  If I brought my entire family downtown on the water taxi the cost would be $42.  I can drive and pay for parking and have money left over for that cost!

  • Overthere January 18, 2016 (3:22 pm)

    Interesting, the fare to Bremerton is under $8.50 round trip. They should probably end the west Seattle Seattle ferry as the costs don’t make a bit of sense. If on top of the fare it is being subsided it needs to end sooner rather than later, don’t expand it. None of this surprises me. It’s ineffective and makes people feel good which is not a reason to run a mode of transportation.

    • Mike January 20, 2016 (8:32 am)

      Bremerton run is operated by the state, not King County.

  • wetone January 18, 2016 (4:25 pm)

     How does city plan to increase ridership when there is zero dedicated parking ?   What street parking in area now will be gone once the new builds get built were old Alki tav is standing now, along with multiple other big builds in the works in same area along (Harbor ave., Florida st,  Alki ave.) City’s answer will be to subsidize program more by adding more free bus service to water taxi so they can show increased usage numbers,  and people wonder why taxes and rent are going up in Seattle… Very poorly planed  and run city blunder since birth,  that will always be highly subsidized by tax payers and benefiting tourism more than commuter’s .

    • WSB January 18, 2016 (4:47 pm)

      The Water Taxi is a King County operation, not the city.

  • dsa January 19, 2016 (12:40 pm)

    The city should cooperate with King County to dedicate parking.  The issue is the city has historically had a thing against parking lots and park and ride lots.

  • brandon January 19, 2016 (1:20 pm)

    Fuel is cheap right now.  Wait until fuel surcharges kick in.    It never fails to astound me why they make it an extra “nick” to fares.  Why isn’t $5 enough, whats with the extra $.25?   Just more pocket change to carry, and really, is it what makes or breaks profitability?

    • Mike January 20, 2016 (8:35 am)

      Fuel estimates were done when it was close to peak pricing.  Right now it’s cheaper but still expensive.  The 2015 Water Taxi (the old boat) used ~95,000 gallons of diesel.  Vashon run used ~120,000 gallons with less people using it than West Seattle.  Fuel costs alone are expensive, not to mention the nearly $12M spent on new boats.

  • URaWatertaxi January 20, 2016 (3:19 pm)

     So many inaccuracies in the comments above! Where to begin… 1.  Over 300,000 People rode the West Seattle water taxi in 2015. That alone indicates that it is not a luxury “enjoyed by a few”2.  The water taxi recovers more money towards operation cost from fares than buses run by Metro do. Based on the logic of some of the responses above perhaps we should consider eliminating all these inefficient forms of public transportation because the goal of public transportation should be to make money first and foremost, as opposed to providing a service to enable people to get around.3.  The vast majority of the costs for the “fancy new boats” was provided by federal grant money from the FTA, not King County, our local leadership was able to obtain federal funds to provide state-of-the-art quality transportation for area residents.

  • WestSeattleChaz January 20, 2016 (4:41 pm)

    First, remember that the water taxi does offer a free shuttle the the ferry dock from the Alaska and Admiral junctions. There is no need for park and ride lots. I guess I don’t think it should matter whether I ride the boat or the bus, the cost to get dowbtown should be the cost to get downtown. I love the water taxi, Iove the Rapid ride.   Sorry for the bold and italics, I do t know how to get it turned off.

    • sam-c January 21, 2016 (8:31 am)

      Not everyone lives near the junctions. Would be more helpful if the shuttle went more places. yes, parking IS needed. But, we barely ride it anyway. Not because of the shuttle, though.

  • Alkivista January 20, 2016 (10:35 pm)

    I loved having the Water Taxi back in the beginning when it was small, and you could feel those diesel pistons pounding and catch a hint of diesel fuel in the air.  An affordable adventure. Then big government got ahold of it and threw a boatload ( not a pun) of money at it and people flocked to enjoy the fruits of mostly other people’s labors (in the form of massive government subsidies, mostly from non users’ taxes).  I say, it was a fun ride while it lasted. Now time for a reality check.  The party is over folks.   Wake up. Pay the bar tab, your own bar tab, and go back to work. Set the ticket prices to a break even level (sorry, no  heavily subsidized company Orca cards either )and if real users aren’t willing to pay what it takes, start cutting back until the cost-benefit equilibrium is reached.  If it isn’t ever reached accept the obvious message and let it die.  It remains non-essential, as most comments I read agree.

  • Alkivista January 20, 2016 (11:07 pm)

    I just skimmed the massive strategic plan. Sure enough, a significant subsidy is planned soon, coming out of all our property taxes. This is classic Big Government exploitation of the voiceless voters who lose the election to the free loader majority who have realized they can vote themselves benefits from the public treasury.  This is an unsustainable fiscal death spiral folks.  Save the Seattle we love from the takers and non-payers.  Keep things real.  We are not the Federal government and can’t print our own money (that’s not sustainable either but another time for that topic).  No more subsidies.  If enough people want these programs, let them pay for them and leave the rest of us alone.  And NO, these ferries are NOT helping commuters. They are totally non-essential. Handy of course. Attractive for those hooked in to the network, but only because of how cheap they are compared to reality,  being subsidized by, you guessed it, non-users.  Socialism is fun until you run out of other people’s money.

  • Alkivista January 20, 2016 (11:16 pm)

    I must credit Margaret Thatcher for the last quote about Socialism. Sorry Margaret, but thank-you.

  • URaWatertaxi January 21, 2016 (9:02 am)

    Alkivista’s post reads like a game of pseudo-libertarian bingo, along with all the buzzwords…”big government”, “socialism”, “other people’s money”Are we supposed to get rid of all public transportation because it isn’t self-sufficient? I already mentioned that the water taxi recovers more money from fares than Metro does.  What about roads? “Big government” spends more of “other people’s money” on building and maintaining roads than they collect each year, so by your example all this “socialist” infrastructure we’ve created needs to start being entirely self-supporting or go away as well? Most of us living in society realize that part of the social contract entails paying for things that are “subsidized” by “big government”

  • Vincent Dakotah Langley January 25, 2016 (10:01 pm)

    I couldn’t ride the water taxi when I lived near Alaska Junction there in West Seattle. (I now live in north Seattle.) The reason why I couldn’t ride the water taxi was (and is) basically because I am a disabled person who usually has to use either a rollator (a walker, in another word) or a mobility scooter. A person simply cannot get either special needs device onto or back off from the water taxi and the various members of the crew of the water taxi are simply unwilling to help a person such as me with any such special needs device. They don’t offer elderly/disabled seating anywhere on the water taxi, either. So, it’s always “been out” for me. And, as well, say, if you are coming from West Seattle and going on the water taxi across Seattle’s Elliott Bay to the waterfront of the downtown Seattle area, once you are over here on the Seattle side of Elliott Bay, for a physically-challenged person such as myself, anyway, it is really quite impossible to walk from Seattle’s waterfront up to anywhere else in the downtown Seattle area, such as, say, Macy’s on Third Avenue and Pine Street in downtown Seattle. And then, we physically-challenged have the “problem” or the issue of getting (walking) from up in that downtown Seattle area back to Seattle’s waterfront area again, to then be able to board the westbound water taxi (if we only actually could do that, this is to say), to get back across Elliott Bay again, to the West Seattle side of Elliott Bay. …In the first place, this all would take way, way too long, really. Get rid of the Water Taxi. It serves no practical purpose to the local people of this Seattle area. It, on the other hand, is only an attraction for tourists visiting this Seattle, Washington area. …All of that FOR WHAT??? 

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