How might ferries factor into fixing traffic without the West Seattle Bridge? WSF @ WS Transportation Coalition on Thursday

Many have wondered how Washington State Ferries might factor into the traffic picture during the West Seattle Bridge closure. Tomorrow, WSF guests at the West Seattle Transportation Coalition‘s meeting, and you’re invited. Here’s the announcement:

The West Seattle Transportation Coalition May meeting is this Thursday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. We will be meeting online using Zoom (please see details below).

Before Everything Changed, we had representatives from Washington State Ferries lined up to come talk about long-range plans for the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route. Now with the West Seattle High Bridge closure, we will also be discussing what the ferry system can do to help take pressure off West Seattle roads.

Officials from Seattle and King County will be joining us as well to talk about West Seattle mobility and bridge closure mitigation.

… We can’t wait to see you online Thursday for what should be a very interesting virtual meeting!

West Seattle Transportation Coalition is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting:

Thursday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m.
Zoom Meeting ID 876 0979 0501
On the web:
Via phone: +12532158782,,87609790501#

Our coverage of last month’s WSTC meeting is here.

28 Replies to "How might ferries factor into fixing traffic without the West Seattle Bridge? WSF @ WS Transportation Coalition on Thursday"

  • Tom Alberts May 27, 2020 (5:22 pm)

    WSB. A question to ask: would a run from Fauntleroy to downtown be effective?

    • Justin Blair May 27, 2020 (7:23 pm)

      The Fauntleroy dock doesn’t have the capacity as is for the F/V/S run. I could however see a Seattle/Vashon/Southworth or just Seattle/Vashon run working. However the Seattle dock is under construction and is lacking in capacity.It won’t do a ton of help as the Issaquah class only hold 130 cars though which would probably be what they use. The system currently has a few boats that it could run but as things pick up they will be needed elsewhere. I still think they should do a 1 month trial.

      • Hammer in Hand May 27, 2020 (8:41 pm)

        Sea/ V / SW in around 2002-2003 did go to downtown while the Faunt dock was out for a while with upgrades or repair there are many 130 car boats that come in between 6 and 9am weekday mornings if those boats go to downtown it’s more like 500 cars not coming through west seattle in the mornings during that timeso what if it adds 20 mins to the commute that’s traffic we do have to deal withi agree 1 month trail then make it stick!!

        • s May 27, 2020 (10:55 pm)

          Hammer: Before the closure, the West Seattle bridge carried 100,000 cars and 25,000 transit riders per day. 500 cars is still a drop in the bucket. See Jort’s factual comment below for some perspective and additional points.

      • East Coast Cynic May 28, 2020 (7:01 am)

        If the low bridge is ever taken out of service for a considerable length of time, the DOT, who said everything is on the table, should look at obtaining a ferry or ferries from other sources – Alaska, which has one of the biggest ferry systems in the U.S. next to ours.  Use that Ferry as a foot ferry, or at least predominantly as a foot ferry for people who would normally take the bus.  And get cracking on fixing the Fauntleroy dock to accommodate more people.  Running the buses through the back roads would make a chaotic traffic situation much worse, particularly for bus riders.

  • Jort May 27, 2020 (6:16 pm)

    Interesting topic. Here’s some fun facts: There are no spare ferries in the fleet right now. Car capacity on a ferry is about 150-200 or so cars, at best (0.2 percent of the former high bridge traffic). Colman Dock is at capacity right now; no room for additional ferries. A ferry takes 15-20 minutes to load and unload. Navigating is 20-30 minutes. Additional time to load and unload, so roughly one hour each way. So, every hour, we can move … 150 or 200 cars in one direction? With ferries that don’t exist? With docks that don’t have capacity? This will be a very entertaining discussion with WSF. They’ll likely be too professional to spend the entire meeting laughing at the idea that somehow our ferry system can absorb any meaningful amount of car traffic from the closure. Just in case anybody has forgotten (and it seems like most people have), there is literally nothing that any government agency on this entire planet can do, even with unlimited quadrillions of dollars, to make your commute the same as it was before the closure. There are lots of Magical Thinking Unicorns and Ponies ideas floating around out there. Not a single one of them will fix this. Every person who depended on fast commuting in their car is in for a nightmare hellscape of traffic misery and pain, taking precious hours and hours of each day away from your lives, adding up to months of our precious moments on this planet wasted, and there is literally nothing you, nor I, nor anybody on this planet can do to change this flat and unchangeable fact. Get a bike or get on the bus and begin making your personal mental adaptations as soon as possible.

    • Steve M May 28, 2020 (8:04 am)

      I don’t disagree with the facts as stated. But I’d like to add on that covid-19 has changed the traffic-game.

      Major tech companies with offices in our region have already stated that they’d be allowing many staff to work from home. Local Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Google employees with a WFH directive will be taking thousands and thousands of single-occupancy vehicles off the road. This doesn’t include all the other corporate offices and non-profit organizations that realize it’s simply cheaper to have folks WFH than to furnish and maintain an unnecesary office building.

      I say this not to discount the facts — the bridge being out is going to be painful (it already is). But it won’t have the pain of 100,000 cars. Does your job allow you to work remotely? Would your boss allow you to WFH as things reopen? Our offices have said yes, so there’s a few dozen more cars off the road.

      The suggestion to grab your bike and change your mindset is wise, especially if ferries are involved. As noted, ferries only hold ~150 cars per trip, but how many people walking on (or boarding with bicycles) could they hold? What kind of shuttle/bus routes could be arranged to shuffle arriving ferry riders to key locations downtown or in West Seattle?

      I think it’s good to be skeptical of any solution that claims to solve the bridge closure problem. There is no one solution. But maybe there are many other smaller solutions (“magical thinking unicorns and ponies ideas”) that can reduce the pain of this temporary situation. And maybe if we come together and talk about how to make ferries one of the small solutions, we can identify more.

      Yes, this sucks. And yes, we will get through it — one small solution after another.

    • Anne May 28, 2020 (8:56 am)

      Yep-your get a bike -get a bike-get a bike, mantra is the answer to everything & for everyone. Just because you keep saying it -isn’t going to make it so as the bike “solution” will  never work for many -if not most. For those it does work for & for those that can change from cars to bus/bikes-I truly applaud you. 

    • Joe Z May 28, 2020 (9:36 am)

      The one reasonable ferry idea that I’ve seen is to have a third water taxi from Fauntleroy to downtown, especially because King County has a backup boat that could be repurposed for that route. But the thing is–downtown commuters don’t have much to worry about because there are myriad backup options to get downtown. It’s the people who need to get elsewhere who are in trouble–and the only solution for them is that literally everyone else avoids driving. And even that will probably not be enough.

      • Jon Wright May 28, 2020 (11:47 am)

        Sorry, this is not a reasonable idea. Sailing from Fauntleroy all the way around the peninsula is probably the least efficient way possible by any metric to get people downtown. As long as the low bridge remains prioritized for transit, the bus is going to make decent time downtown and is going to be the better option for anyone south of Alaska Junction. If there is demand for additional water taxi service, it would make much more sense to add the spare boat to the existing route and cut headways in half to 15 minutes. 

      • s May 28, 2020 (4:06 pm)

        Joe Z: What is the King County “backup boat” that you speak of? Is it a front bow-loading boat, or a boat that requires a low floating platform? It would need to be front bow-loading to use the Fauntleroy dock.

        • Joe Z May 28, 2020 (4:37 pm)

          Wouldn’t be too hard to set up a temporary dock like they did for the Colman Dock construction.

          And Jon Wright–you have clearly never been on the water taxi before. That thing can move FAST. It could easily get from Fauntleroy to downtown in 10 minutes. How long does it take the C-line to get from Fauntleroy to downtown?

          • WSB May 28, 2020 (5:41 pm)

            10 minutes is the Seacrest to downtown crossing AT HIGH SPEED.
            Fauntleroy to downtown, longer.

    • JRR May 28, 2020 (9:53 am)

      Thank you. 

    • Hammer in Hand May 28, 2020 (8:49 pm)

      Get a bike or get on a bus is what city official have wanted us to do for a long timewho knew it would take a crisis of an unsafe bridge to really ram it home

  • Rhonda May 27, 2020 (8:44 pm)

    This is a challenging problem to be sure. Perhaps, some combination of changes in service might be workable. Some people who live on Vashon work in West Seattle and vice versa. And like myself, some people on Vashon shop or go to doctors in West Seattle as we cannot do it all on the island.  I’m wondering if a combination of ferry & bus service might be the solution to reducing the traffic through West Seattle. 

  • Island_Steve May 28, 2020 (6:28 am)

    Accelerating  the Link line funding and build between downtown and WS, including some type of connection to the Fauntleroy dock (bus shuttle?),  might be an option to consider.

  • PDiddy May 28, 2020 (11:23 am)

    They need to restrict the parking time at the park. Its already often hard to find parking to visit or go for a run because all the free parking for the ferries. I would like to see it restricted to say 2-4 hours along the parks and stuff and then further toward spokane street be open. Maybe a shuttle service to a designated park and ride or even take the crane storage lot and convert it to parking or get some spots on harbor island to setup a P&R.

    • Ivan Weiss May 28, 2020 (11:59 am)

      @Pdiddy: Please explain: Exactly what “free parking for the ferries” are you talking about? Thank you.

  • skeeter May 28, 2020 (12:00 pm)

    My prediction is similar to Jort’s.  Once people start to pencil out the amount of
    time it takes to load/unload a ferry, combined with the limited schedule,
    combined with the slow travel speed, combined with the congestion near ferry
    terminals, they will quickly realize that bikes and busses are way faster if
    you’re going downtown, and driving around to the south is faster if you’re
    going somewhere other than downtown. 
    (Even thought driving around to the south will be a very significant
    delay once people start going back to work in large numbers.)

  • IslandTime May 28, 2020 (12:34 pm)

    As an islander and former West Seattlite for nearly a decade I think best solution would be to add 30-50 public buses to West Seattle. Additionally Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing and any of their other large companies should provide buses for their teams if they aren’t letting them work from home. Lastly the major arteries of California, 35th, Fauntleroy should be closed in certain sections to cars 6-9 and 4-7 similar to how it’s already being done downtown. Ideally a parade of buses would probably take 2500-4000 people off the road per hour, add that to the work from home crowd and the overall reduction in cars should be be tolerable. Roughly estimating this would remove 15,000-30,000 people off the roads at peak times plus the work from home crowd. Overall maybe a 30-40% reduction?! Anyone have numbers of how many folks are working from home and will be permanently? 

  • WSRes May 28, 2020 (2:03 pm)

    Whatever it takes to get our bridge reopened (likely rebuilt) I’m in. It’s key infrastructure and integral for safety. Let’s get to it I say. 

  • West Seattle Hipster May 28, 2020 (2:04 pm)

    How about a floating bridge from near the water taxi dock to near Colman dock?

    • Ice May 29, 2020 (7:50 am)

      This is about as realistic as a giant cannon at the junction that shoots you to your job.

  • K May 28, 2020 (5:09 pm)

    It’s also time for the County/City of Seattle to finally put a moratorium on building multi-family dwellings (condos, apartments, duplexes, etc) in West Seattle.  The infrastructure couldn’t handle any more traffic before the bridge was closed, it certainly can’t handle any kind of influx in traffic due to more people moving to West Seattle now.  Instead of trying to jam the monorail/light rail down California Ave., they should’ve built a transit hub, not condos/apartments where Huling Brothers used to be.  Park-n-ride, bus terminal and light rail station.  Wouldn’t that have been logical?!  Nope, just ride your bikes everyone….

  • WS resident May 28, 2020 (6:55 pm)

    Unless there is lots of parking available near the ferry docks they aren’t going to help alleviate traffic. 

  • Gary English May 29, 2020 (9:30 am)

    2 timelines, short term to  2022 if repaired, MUCH longer for new.  Short -Improving all efficiencies is best we do, for now.  Add more Water Taxi from W seattle with reconfigured bus routes to increase volumes.   Add water taxi from SWorth, +/or express bus from SWorth to Brem ferries. Car ferry 15- 20 min to offload and load is direct result of slow ticketing processes.  WA legislature approved funding studying efficiencies at Fauntleroy including ‘way to go’ type passes, i.e. 10 min unload/ load, net more runs on existing ferrys and increased #  buses.  W S Bridge is choke point.  Consider bike share W Seattle to express bus  hub in S Sodo. Ride bike across, pick up express bus to downtown transit hub (erd Ave?).   (consider riders in lousy winter weather might ride a short 10 min ride to cross choke point if rest of the trip was in spendor of mass transit.)   Initiate railless transit bus train (buses linked and following in ground wire- perfect replacement for 18th century trolley buses).  More ?    

  • Fauntleroy Resident May 29, 2020 (6:23 pm)

    “Slow ticketing process” not a factor when the boat is already full when vessel arrives.  Not having a officer of some type (WSP or SPD) is a factor at Fauntleroy, and there is not one on duty at this time.  “Way to Go” would mean giving up millions of dollars in passenger fares if implemented.  There would be many other problem with that idea too, there is still only room for two booths at Fauntleroy.

Sorry, comment time is over.