West Seattle, Washington
(9/26/2010 WSB photo by Christopher Boffoli)
More than three months after it crashed into the downtown seawall at Washington Street, the King County Water Taxi vessel Rachel Marie is close to returning to service. This morning, King County Department of Transportation spokesperson Rochelle Ogershok confirms that the Rachel Marie begins its post-repairs sea trials today. (Thanks to Eileen for the tip.) The Argosy Cruises boat that used to handle the West Seattle-to-downtown run, the Sightseer, has filled in for most of the runs since the crash, which sent seven people to the hospital last September 26. Ogershok says they should know in a few days when the Rachel Marie will be officially back in service; meantime, a U.S. Coast Guard District 13 spokesperson says the investigation is still “ongoing.”
ADDED 1:26 PM: USCG Lt. Jon Lane provided a little more information about the investigation’s status: He says there will be a formal announcement for the media later this week, saying that Coast Guard investigators have “determined the causal factors” but won’t be able to go public with them “until the investigative report is finalized at Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound and then reviewed and approved by Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C.” Lt. Lane says that’s likely to take at least two more months.
Another announcement today from the King County Department of Transportation (following the Metro and Water Taxi changes published here earlier):
The King County Ferry District is advising passengers that the 2011 winter sailing season has been set for the West Seattle Water Taxi.
From Jan 1 – March 31, service will continue to be offered five days a week consistent with the current sailing schedule. Currently, the water taxi operates five morning trips and five afternoon trips Monday through Friday to serve commuters headed into downtown Seattle. This schedule may be adjusted when the Rachel Marie returns to service in a few weeks.
“This winter sailing schedule will continue to be a great option for passengers looking to avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic during their daily commute,” said King County Ferry District Chair Larry Gossett. “And as road work continues along the waterfront, the water taxi will become an even more valuable commute alternative for residents who want to avoid construction tie-ups.”
Meanwhile, repair work continues on the Rachel Marie, which was damaged in last September. The vessel is expected to be back in operation sometime in January.
For more details on the West Seattle Water Taxi winter sailing season, visit: www.kingcounty.gov/watertaxi.
From the King County Department of Transportation today, a reminder of upcoming holiday-related schedule changes for Metro and the Water Taxi over the next month – plus another nudge about the Metro fare changes that take effect on New Year’s Day. Read on for full details:Read More
If you don’t have the day off – note that the roads are clear, but since we’re in the midst of a four-day weekend, there are still some changes – Metro is on a “reduced weekday” schedule today; the King County Water Taxi and its shuttles are NOT running. As for Sound Transit, its express buses have some downtown rerouting this morning because of the Macy’s Parade.
Reminder that the King County Water Taxi is NOT running on Veterans Day tomorrow – no West Seattle runs, no Vashon Island runs, no shuttle buses. Metro is on what they’re calling a “reduced weekday schedule,” and we’ve just clarified a bit of confusion that WSB’er JayDee noted while checking the Metro timetables: Not all routes have canceled trips, and Metro is updating the online list to make sure it’s accurate. Most notably, the timetables for Route 37 tomorrow ARE correct, Metro’s Linda Thielke tells WSB – there are NO canceled trips on the 37, even though the “Holiday Service” list, which she says is being fixed, said there would be. Meantime, another transit note for tomorrow: Sound Transit says its buses/trains are on a regular weekday schedule.
King County asked if we would share this announcement to help them recruit for these discussions about the West Seattle Water Taxi (WSB Traffic page sponsor):
This coming week the King County Department of Transportation’s Marine Division will conduct three focus group discussions with West Seattle residents. The purpose is to learn more about how the King County Water Taxi can better serve the West Seattle community.
Two of the three groups will include residents who regularly commute via the Water Taxi. These will be held at 8 PM on Monday the 15th, and at 8 PM on Wednesday the 17th. The third group, to be comprised of occasional Water Taxi riders, will be held at 8 PM on Thursday the 18th.
The discussions will take place in downtown Seattle and participants will be served snacks and receive a $75 gratuity.
If interested and one of these times works for you, please contact Chris Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up and receive further details.
Tomorrow (Monday) morning, the King County Water Taxi‘s West Seattle-Downtown run starts its new schedule: morning and evening commutes only, Mondays-Fridays. Here’s the full schedule. And note that until the Rachel Marie is back in service (still undergoing repairs from last month’s crash), the Sightseer is handling the run, which means to and from Pier 55.
Another transportation alert just out of the WSB inbox: The West Seattle Water Taxi is adding a 7:30 pm run from Pier 50 downtown to Seacrest in West Seattle this Sunday, October 31, because of the Sounders’ game. That’s also the last day of the spring/summer schedule – remember the new Monday-Friday, commute-hours-only schedule starts the next day – Monday, November 1st.
(September 27 photo, shared by Ross)
As first reported here earlier this year, the West Seattle Water Taxi will indeed continue on into fall and winter – and today, full details have just come out about the new weekday-commute-hours-only schedule to start one week from today – the complete announcement is after the jump:Read More
(Seattle Times photo by Mike Siegel, used with permission)
That’s Frank Massaro, a King County Water Taxi crew member who just won a special commendation from the U.S. Coast Guard. He was on board the Rachel Marie – the West Seattle-serving vessel that’s currently in a shipyard for repairs after last month’s downtown seawall crash – when he rescued a man from the water near Pier 50, the KCWT’s downtown dock. Full story in this report from the Seattle Times (WSB partner).
Starting today, King County Water Taxi riders can use credit/debit cards to pay their fare – by buying tickets from the machines now installed at Seacrest, Pier 50 downtown, and Vashon. The one in West Seattle, shown in our photo, is alongside the southeast side of the main building at the pier, close to where shuttle riders get on/off buses. The machines sell one-way tickets; more info here. Meantime, if you drive along Fauntleroy or 35th SW to get to the West Seattle Bridge, as of about 6 am this morning, the electronic signs along those routes are supposed to start showing travel times, as announced by the city on Friday. If you just want to check online before you leave home, this map is supposed to show times for even more areas.
12:20 AM: From King County Department of Transportation:
The King County Water Taxi West Seattle/Downtown Seattle route is expected to return to normal operation Sunday, Oct. 17, pending the U.S. Coast Guard’s inspection and approval of repairs made to the vessel Melissa Ann. Service was cancelled Saturday because of a mechanical problem.
Here’s our earlier coverage. Meantime, on the same webpage that’s been tracking this, you’ll find word that there are ticket machines at the Seacrest and Pier 50 docks (Vashon too, for that route) that will start operating on Monday, taking credit/debit cards.
8:52 AM UPDATE: The county confirms the Water Taxi is running again – and the live marine-traffic map confirms this.
ORIGINAL 12:41 PM REPORT: Thanks to JayDee for the tip, confirmed by King County Department of Transportation: The West Seattle Water Taxi isn’t running right now, because of “mechanical problems.” KCDOT’s Rochelle Ogershok says there’s no word yet how soon they’ll be able to resume service. The West Seattle Water Taxi has been running on weekends with the Melissa Ann, which serves Vashon on weekdays, since the crash that idled its regular vessel Rachel Marie three weeks ago, while Argosy’s Sightseer has handled weekday runs. We’ll be monitoring this, but if you want to directly check the Melissa Ann’s status, you can use this “live” map with marine-traffic ID, which currently shows it still docked at Pier 50 downtown.
2:24 PM UPDATE: KCDOT has just announced that the West Seattle Water Taxi is canceled for the rest of today/tonight. They’re still saying “mechanical problems.”
10:24 PM UPDATE: In case you’re wondering, the county still has not announced whether there will or won’t be Water Taxi service tomorrow (keep an eye on this page).
(September 26 photo by Christopher Boffoli)
A week and a half after the downtown crash that damaged the Rachel Marie badly enough that it’ll be off the West Seattle run of the King County Water Taxi for weeks, if not months, we’ve got an update from King County Councilmember Jan Drago. In an “op-ed” essay, she reveals she’s told the county to “contract with Argosy Cruises to deliver, without interruption, West Seattle Water Taxi service” – since the crash, Argosy’s Sightseer, which used to run the route till the county took it over, has handled weekday service. Read on for Drago’s full essay:Read More
With Monday on the horizon, one more reminder that the West Seattle run of the King County Water Taxi (WSB Traffic page sponsor) is operating via different docks (and vessels) on weekends/weekdays, while the vessel damaged in last Sunday’s downtown crash (WSB coverage here) is assessed and repaired: Monday-Friday this week, it’ll be Argosy Cruises‘ Sightseer again, between Seacrest and Pier 55. Don’t expect to see the Rachel Marie back any time soon – Rochelle Ogershok from the county Transportation Department told WSB a few days ago, “It will likely take several weeks to make arrangements for a move, get the vessel into a ship yard, have it inspected further and then make a final determination as to the extent of damage.”
While the King County Department of Transportation has not yet released information on how long the Rachel Marie will be out for repairs following last Sunday’s crash into the downtown seawall at the Washington Street Landing (WSB coverage here), they’ve just sent an update on West Seattle Water Taxi replacement plans for the next week-plus. Melissa Ann, which handles the Vashon-downtown Seattle run for the King County Water Taxi, will fill in this weekend and will dock at Pier 50; Argosy Cruises’ Sightseer will fill in again next Monday-Friday and will dock at Pier 55.
(Photo courtesy Andrew Harms, who was on board when the Rachel Marie crashed on Sunday)
Just in from King County, an update on the aftermath of yesterday’s crash, with the West Seattle-to-downtown Water Taxi, Rachel Marie, hitting the seawall and historic landing south of its dock at Pier 50, sending 7 people to the hospital (WSB coverage here). The county says damage to the RM appears “significant” and that Argosy’s Sightseer will continue to make the run, between Seacrest and Pier 55 instead of 50, for at least the rest of this week. (We checked out its first run this morning; later, Ross sent this photo of a bigger crowd boarding:)
Read on for the full text of the news release just sent by King County Department of Transportation:Read More
Quick reminder for West Seattle Water Taxi commuters who either missed the news about yesterday’s crash (WSB coverage here) or the followup about today’s service: The county announced last night that a replacement boat from Argosy Cruises was expected to run the regular schedule – which starts with a 6:50 am trip from Seacrest to downtown. 7:31 AM UPDATE: The replacement is the former Water Taxi boat, the Sightseer, which left at 6:50 am (video above) with eight on board, according to what the crew shouted up to the bridge. (At least one passenger hadn’t heard about the crash – a crew member could be heard giving a quick explanation for the boat change.) 10:02 AM: Also note, as Eric points out in comments – the Sightseer is docking at the “old” Water Taxi dock at Pier 55 (Argosy HQ), not the current one at Pier 50.
(This was our Sunday coverage of the incident, from first report through evening updates – The Water Taxi *will* run a normal schedule, with an Argosy boat, Monday, says the county)
(Top photo courtesy Roy, who was on the Water Taxi when it hit, added 12:27 pm; below photo, WSB cameraphone, added 11:56 am)
ORIGINAL 11:29 AM REPORT: From the scanner, and we are en route – the medic call to Alaskan Way involves the Water Taxi from West Seattle
colliding with crashing into its downtown dock. Minor injuries are reported. We’re on the way to find out more. No word yet how this will affect service.
11:35 AM UPDATE: From Amy, in comments:
My husband is on the water taxi that crashed with our two young sons. Apparently the boat crashed into the dock on the Seattle side. He has heard reports of someone with a bloody nose and can see a broken window, but otherwise it didn’t sound too bad. He said they are telling everyone to stay seated while they decide how to get everyone off the boat.
According to the scanner, seven people are believed to be hurt, and one may have been briefly knocked unconscious, but is conscious now. Also from the scanner (we are almost to the scene), rescuers are using the fireboat Leschi to help get people off the boat. Nearby Fire Station 5 (on the waterfront between Colman Dock and Ivar’s) is being used as a base of operations to stage medics.
11:57 AM UPDATE: We are downtown finding out more about what’s happened. Four ambulances are at Fire Station 5 awaiting the patients, who will be brought over from the dock. We’re adding photos.
12:03 PM UPDATE: Note that traffic on Alaskan Way is being affected – as is obviously the Water Taxi schedule – we are working to reach King County DOT to find out about their plans. At least 5 are confirmed hurt – 4 being put on stretchers at the scene, 1 who is “walking” – the 4 will be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Police and Coast Guard, meantime, are assisting on the water:
We have just spoken at the scene with a passenger named Mike from West Seattle who says they got warning at the last moment – the captain said, everybody hold on, we’re going to hit – but they were not traveling at excessive speed, in Mike’s opinion.
12:29 PM UPDATE: Five patients are going to the hospital – from the scanner description, one is more seriously hurt than the other four. We have just added a photo atop this story from Roy, who was on board when it happened (husband of Amy, who has reported twice now in comments). Christopher Boffoli has joined Patrick Sand at the scene for WSB coverage; Christopher stopped by the West Seattle dock on the way here and says people there hadn’t yet gotten news about what had happened and were wondering where the boat was.
12:38 PM UPDATE: The Rachel Marie is the boat that hit the dock – recently there was a substitution for maintenance, but we have confirmed this. The other boat that serves Water Taxi runs, usually to Vashon, Melissa Ann, will be summoned into service later today, says Linda Thielke of King County Department of Transportation, but West Seattle Water Taxi service is suspended until then (no estimated time yet).
1:06 PM UPDATE: From “E” in comments:
We were on the boat too! I luckily had just strapped our 11 week old baby in the bjorn. My husband was helping with our 3-year-old son in the stroller. They took a pretty good hit. Sad for my son because he’s still a little traumatized!!! We are at Seahawk game now and he’s doing a little better. Hopefully one day he’ll remember how fun it was to get rescued by the police boat!!
Meantime, Amy’s husband Roy, who shared the top photo, checked in:
He reports, “We were cruising into the dock. I had noticed the boat went past where it normally stops, then I heard them say something like ‘Jones to the Control Room’ and then ‘everyone please brace for impact, we have an emergency’ and boom, we crashed into the dock. It felt like being hit while in a moving car.” He held onto the kids and they were ok, although a seat came loose from the base of the floor. He observed one end of the pier now sticking through the window of the water taxi, where thankfully no one was sitting. He said, “I’ll put it this way: I’m glad we weren’t going any faster.”
Just got an update at the scene from Seattle Police Det. Jeff Kappel of the Media Unit, who will be briefing us and others shortly – he says seven people went to the hospital, all with “non-life-threatening” injuries. (Update – USCG did the briefing instead – photo below:)
1:39 PM UPDATE: Briefing from Coast Guard: Mechanical failure is suspected. They say no one went into the water. (added later – video of the briefing in its entirety)
Meantime, King County DOT says water-taxi service has resumed – the Melissa Ann went toward West Seattle at 1:30 and should be back on the regular schedule.
2:09 PM UPDATE: Adding more photos – the ones we’ve had till now (except for Roy’s, atop the story) were from the WSB BlackBerry. Here’s a closer look at where the Rachel Marie hit the seawall – right where the ironwork at the historic Washington Street Landing is:
Here are Coast Guard boats getting the injured people to shore:
2:49 PM UPDATE: The damaged Rachel Marie has been pulled away from the seawall, Christopher reports. He says it’s now tied up to its dock at Pier 50, while Seattle Police photograph damage to the seawall. Christopher says the impact appears to have taken out at least one piling. We’ll be checking with King County DOT regarding both the Rachel Marie’s condition and how, if at all, tomorrow’s Water Taxi schedule will be affected, since the Melissa Ann serves Vashon Mondays-Fridays. Meantime, Jason Grotelueschen just sent this photo of the Melissa Ann just arriving at Seacrest, with passengers disembarking:
3:34 PM UPDATE: We just added our video of the full briefing by USCG Lt. Jon Lane, following the entry two hours ago in which we summarized it. He said 73 people were on the Rachel Marie when this happened, including the crew, and it was reported to have been going about 6 knots at the time.
ADDED 4:17 PM: Two photos from Christopher, showing damage to the Rachel Marie, including the broken window, from outside:
7:43 PM UPDATE: Water Taxi service will be normal tomorrow, according to the latest from King County:
Water taxi service between West Seattle and downtown Seattle will operate on a normal schedule Monday, Sept. 27 between Seacrest Dock and Pier 55, according to the King County Department of Transportation.
Service was briefly suspended Sunday when the vessel Rachel Marie struck a waterfront landing adjacent to its regular docking location along Alaskan Way in downtown Seattle. Preliminary reports point to a mechanical malfunction. The U.S. Coast Guard is currently investigating the incident.
While regular service will resume Monday morning with the 6:50 a.m. sailing using an Argosy Cruises vessel, passengers should visit the King County Marine Division’s website at
http://www.kingcounty.gov/transportation/kcdot/WaterTaxi/WestSeattleRoute.aspx for updates and potential schedule adjustments.
Tonight we also have Christopher’s video of the Rachel Marie being pulled back from the collision scene:
ADDED 9:04 PM: West Seattleite Andrew Harms also was on board the Rachel Marie when it crashed into the seawall/historic pier and is sharing photos tonight – including one from the police boat that took him and more than 30 others to shore:
This is the piling mentioned earlier as having been taken out:
And from inside the Rachel Marie, seats tossed about:
We aren’t likely to get more details on the damage – to the seawall/pier as well as the Rachel Marie – till tomorrow.
Back in July, we reported that the King County Water Taxi had found enough money to continue its West Seattle run through December, but money for the first few months of the year hadn’t been secured yet. Now, it has. Just announced in King County Councilmember Jan Drago‘s e-mail newsletter, the Water Taxi will continue uninterrupted – though the months of November through March will be morning/evening commute hours only. More details here. 4:05 PM UPDATE: Drago staffer Jodie Vice explains that the funding for this winter was freed up when the county got a Puget Sound Regional Council grant for maintenance work; since the maintenance already was in the budget, the money could be moved to operations. For at least the two following winters, she says, it’ll be covered by state funding given to the county for mitigation of Alaskan Way Viaduct construction effects. P.S. Speaking of maintenance – don’t do a doubletake if you see a different Water Taxi next Friday through Wednesday – the Rachel Marie is going in for some work, and the Spirit of Kingston will replace it, no schedule changes.
From Linda Robson in King County Councilmember Jan Drago‘s office:
(T)he Ferry District Board of Supervisors today approved extending the West Seattle Water Taxi service through November and December this year. That’s about a $250,000 addition to the budget. This gets us one step closer to being able to offer year-round service for West Seattle residents, who are going to really start feeling the impacts of all the big road projects in that area, including the Spokane Street Viaduct work and the first phase of the Alaskan Way Viaduct work.
This would be, we’re told, for the “commute hours only.” Part if not all of the money would come from dollars set aside for maintenance that now will be funded from a federal grant.
With even more road construction looming – short term like this, or longer term like this – the West Seattle route of the King County Water Taxi is bound to draw even more commuters starting later this year and early next year. That is, if it does start operating year-round, as is hoped – and as was the motivation for the Seacrest Pier upgrade. The big question for months has been, will there be money, given the county budget crunch? Last night in West Seattle, King County Councilmember Jan Drago told the Southwest District Council that she’s hopeful that, along with King County Executive Dow Constantine, they’ll soon be able to say they’ve secured the money. She pointed out that the big push is to just get enough money to keep it going through winter, because, “Come spring, there will be (Alaskan Way) Viaduct mitigation money.” The Water Taxi is a focus of hers because she chairs the committee overseeing the King County Ferry District.
Thanks to Joseph for the photo – he says the newlyweds are Heather and Josh, coming off the King County Water Taxi at Seacrest Pier, after getting married on its 3:30 run today. Congratulations! ADDED MONDAY AFTERNOON: We’ve heard from the newlyweds themselves in the comments, and they provided the link to video of the wedding itself:
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