WATER TAXI: King County reports record ridership for 2019

(WSB photo of Water Taxi line at Seacrest, January 2019)

One month into the new year, a notable stat from the old year: Record ridership on the King County Water Taxi‘s two routes, including West Seattle to downtown, boosted of course by the Viaduct-to-Tunnel transition. Here’s the announcement sent this afternoon:

The King County Water Taxi celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2019 with a record-breaking year of connecting West Seattle and Vashon Island to downtown Seattle. In 2019, the West Seattle Water Taxi’s ridership was 443,993 and the Vashon Island route’s ridership was 257,615, for a grand total of 701,608 boardings.

In comparison, ridership for 2018 was 414,967 in West Seattle and 249,398 for the Vashon Island route. King County Water Taxi has carried 5.4 million riders since starting service for the King County Ferry District in 2009, and this year’s record-setting ridership represents a 115% increase over its humble beginnings.

“It’s no surprise that more and more people are catching on to all that the Water Taxi has to offer – scenic views, ample seating, fast sailings, and zero traffic,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “We’re continually seeking innovative, expanded ways to help our region’s growing population get around, and the Water Taxi is a perfect example of that, providing a creative transportation solution to commuters, local explorers, and visitors alike.”

Though ridership has increased nearly every year, one notable variable contributed to the Water Taxi’s strong performance in 2019.

Throughout the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure in January, the Water Taxi provided a congestion-free alternative to the Seattle Squeeze. During the first Monday commute, 1,350 passengers boarded West Seattle Water Taxi compared to 350 on the same day in 2018. The route maintained double the ridership throughout the closure, up 142% compared to the same dates in 2018.

“From a persistent pilot project to 700,000 riders, the water taxi has proven an integral part of our transit system,” said King County Councilmember Joe McDermott. “During the viaduct closure, the West Seattle route was up 142% as people sought a fast and reliable commute downtown. As more people look for ways to get out of their cars, preserving and expanding water taxi service will be key to our region’s success.”

Annual ridership isn’t the only record broken by the Water Taxi. In December 2019, 6,575 people responded to a public survey on possible water taxi expansion, a record for any Metro survey. The survey was requested by the King County Council to consider potential future water taxi service to Ballard and Kenmore. Comprehensive survey results will be transmitted to council in July 2020.

6 Replies to "WATER TAXI: King County reports record ridership for 2019"

  • West Seattle Hipster February 5, 2020 (5:11 pm)

    I love the water taxi.  Wish they had a terminal near the new Expedia complex on Elliott Avenue.

  • Morgan February 5, 2020 (6:57 pm)

    More destinations is an interesting idea, but probably real long range. More immediately, keep up the shuttle runs to Morgan Junction. With a fixed up waterfront and better center streetcar I would consider not taking the car even on weekends—and not just for ballgames.

    • songstorm February 6, 2020 (7:34 am)

      Agreed!  I used to take the Water Taxi frequently when I lived up in the Admiral Neighborhood.  Now that I’m down by Morgan Junction, I only use it when traffic has become completely gridlocked (i.e., the day the downtown shooting happened a few weeks ago) because there isn’t a good way to get from the dock back home.  I tried Ride2 a few times when it was running and while I appreciated the service, the timing just didn’t work well and took about twice as long as taking the bus.  A reliable shuttle could draw even more ridership from south of the Junction.

  • artsea February 7, 2020 (8:21 am)

    I seldom use the water taxi anymore, but I remember when I did take it once in a while and hated having to trek on foot to get up to the shopping area. Is there any sort of water taxi shuttle service on that end to make going downtown via water taxi easier for us older folks?

    • Anthony A. February 14, 2020 (9:38 am)

      Great news, Artsea! Starting February 22, all the WS busses (C, 120, 125, etc) will be heading down Alaskan Way and climbing the hill at Columbia. There will be a stop in both directions at Alaskan Way and Columbia. The fare from the Water Taxi will transfer, so you can walk across the street and catch any bus up the hill, so there shouldn’t be any more than a minute or two wait. I hope this helps!

  • beachywaves February 7, 2020 (12:42 pm)

    If they’re really seeking innovative ways to serve people, they’d put the damn 37 back on more than six runs only on weekdays in one direction. There’s a large swathe of people who can’t take public transportation in their area to this other public transportation, and who gladly would. I never go downtown anymore because I don’t feel like driving and parking but there’s no other way for me to get there that doesn’t involve a stupid rideshare app from vile companies. They gutted the 37 service after that s***bag Eyman’s first initiative, and they’ve continually hacked away at any kind of useful service for it. 

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