(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.