West Seattle, Washington
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
Just announced – the smaller M/V Spirit of Kingston will be on the West Seattle Water Taxi run for the next two weeks:
Starting Monday, January 25, the M/V Spirit of Kingston (physical distancing passenger capacity of 33) will be assigned to the West Seattle Water Taxi route for the next two weeks while the M/V Sally Fox goes to the shipyard for scheduled annual maintenance.
The M/V Doc Maynard (physical distancing passenger capacity of 86) typically serves the West Seattle route and will be operating on the Vashon Island route. The smaller vessel is assigned to West Seattle because the route has twice as many sailings as Vashon Island’s route and therefore more departure options for passengers.
Ridership on the West Seattle route has not exceeded 33 passengers since early November, although ridership has been fluctuating since the holidays. Please plan your commute accordingly.
The Water Taxi continues to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through regular cleaning and disinfecting between sailings. Masks are required for both passengers and crew.
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
Just in, a temporary change of vessel on the West Seattle Water Taxi route:
The 149-passenger Spirit of Kingston will replace the 278-passenger Doc Maynard on the West Seattle route tonight and tomorrow. West Seattle riders should plan accordingly given the reduced passenger capacity, especially on the 8:00 and 8:35 morning sailings as well as the 4:45 and 5:25 evening sailings. The Doc Maynard will be going to the shipyard to have a damaged propeller replaced. There will be no impacts to Vashon service.
And a reminder, no Water Taxi service on Friday for the holiday.
5:02 PM: The pier at Seacrest reopened this afternoon after replacement of the Water Taxi dock float that holds its passenger ramp. We took the photo just before sunset. On Friday, David Hutchinson caught the old float being lifted out:
Metro explains the work here; the new float will be more weather- and wave-resistant. This should mean the West Seattle Water Taxi service is clear to resume tomorrow, but we’re waiting for an official update on Sunday.
11:48 AM SUNDAY: The official update is in – WT servive WILL resume as normal Monday morning.
(WSB photos unless otherwise credited)
As we’ve been reporting, the pier at Seacrest is closed today, and West Seattle Water Taxi afternoon/evening service is canceled, because of dock work. American Construction‘s big floating crane got busy right after the morning commute.
The crane is there to replace a section of the floating dock, the one that holds the passenger ramp to/from the dock. King County Metro explains, “This float is listing to one side, likely caused by water retention from failing pile guide mounting bolts. This listing is causing further issues with the passenger ramp connection, the ramp’s rollers on the float end, and the float’s connection to (another float).” The problem factored into a recent WT service interruption when emergency repairs were needed
The old float is 320 square feet; the new float is 448 square feet, and three kayak floats are also being taken out to make room for it. Metro says $300,000 was budgeted for this and it’s expected to be $60,000 under that. The pier itself isn’t being altered but it’s closed for safety, since the crane is hoisting items over it. Seattle Parks, which owns the pier, is hoping to reopen it Saturday afternoon.
The Water Taxi is expected to be back in service Monday morning; Metro will confirm that on Sunday.
11:56 AM: Just announced by King County Metro:
If you are planning to travel by water taxi to or from West Seattle on Friday, Dec. 4, please note that afternoon service will be canceled so that Seacrest Park can receive a brand-new, stronger float. The pier at Seacrest Park will also be closed when construction crews are onsite. Construction will begin after morning service on Friday and is scheduled to be completed early Sunday, Dec. 6. Service is expected to resume as normal Monday morning, Dec. 7.
The float being replaced, Float A, is one of three located at Seacrest Park. Float A is the northern-most float where the passenger ramp lands. This float is listing to one side, likely caused by water retention from failing pile guide mounting bolts. This listing is causing further issues with the passenger ramp connection, the ramp’s rollers on the float end, and the float’s connection to Float B.
Four kayak floats are also being removed in order to maintain the same footprint overwater once the larger, new float is installed.
Photo from kingcounty.gov: The passenger ramp lands on the float being replaced (Float A); extending to the right is Float B. The “fingers” extending from Float B are the four kayak floats being removed.
Float A takes the brunt of the weather and wave action which has led to several repairs to pile guides. A new design from the manufacturer now features integrated pile guides, which will minimize maintenance to the float and better endure the weather. The new float has a life expectancy of 25 years.
The existing float being removed is 320 square feet (10 feet by 32 feet) and the kayak floats being removed are 290 square feet. The new float being installed is 448 square feet (14 feet by 32 feet).
The Seacrest Float Replacement Project is a capital project planned for in the 2019/2020 biennial budget. The budget is $300,000, and the project is currently targeted to be underbudget by approximately $60,000.
Water Taxi service is expected to resume Monday morning; Metro will confirm on Sunday.
ADDED WEDNESDAY MORNING: As for the fishing pier, here’s what Seattle Parks tells us: “It will also be closed for safety reasons. This is because the new docks will swing up and over the Pier and gangway. It won’t close until 9:00 am Friday morning and hope to have it back open Saturday afternoon.”
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
2:53 PM: Since the strong north wind canceled this morning’s Water Taxi runs, we just checked with Metro to see if the passenger-ferry service will resume for the pm. Spokesperson Torie Rynning tells WSB that. looking at the weather, they do expect it to resume service for this afternoon/evening. She adds, “The Spirit of Kingston will replace the Doc Maynard, as the weather prevented the Doc Maynard from accessing the fuel dock this morning.”
3:31 PM: The official announcement is out now, and it includes the reminder that the vessel swap “means the route will be able to carry only 33 passengers per trip compared to 86, given physical-distancing limits.”
Thanks to Carolyn Newman for that photo from repair work at Seacrest today, two days after the West Seattle Water Taxi route went out of service because of dock trouble. Metro says the run will be back in service Monday:
We are pleased to report that the West Seattle Water Taxi will be back in service Monday morning, Nov. 2. The marine crew is reinstalling the dock-to-shore ramp at Seacrest Dock that was removed for repairs, resulting in cancellation of West Seattle service Thursday and Friday. The damaged hinge and attachment mechanism (pin) have since been replaced.
Metro says the downtime also enabled them to put a new non-skid surface on the boarding ramp in time for rainy weather, to give the vessels extra deep cleaning, and to run “training exercises and emergency drills for crew members.”
The West Seattle Water Taxi, out of service since Wednesday afternoon because of a problem at the Seacrest dock, will not be back until at least Monday. Here’s the update from King County Department of Transportation:
On Wednesday, Oct 28, a routine inspection at the Seacrest dock identified wear and damage to one of the pins and swing arms which supports the connection of the ramp to the shore. After further assessment, as a safety precaution, a decision was made to replace the entire dock-to-shore hinge and attachment mechanism. Work is underway to fabricate new attachment arms per specifications provided by the original manufacturer. A contractor will be onsite on Friday with a boom truck to lift the ramp in order to complete these repairs. Repairs will extend into the weekend and updates will be provided as necessary.
During this time, Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 and 775 will continue to operate as usual in West Seattle.
The Water Taxi’s floating dock at Seacrest was installed more than a decade ago.
P.S. Here’s a KCDOT photo of one of the problem parts:
The replacement arms were being fabricated at Pacific Fishermen & Electric.
(Added: Reader photo, sign up at Pier 50 downtown)
3:12 PM: Just announced by King County Department of Transportation:
The West Seattle route of the King County Water Taxi has been canceled tonight due to a maintenance issue at Seacrest Park. We will update the status of the West Seattle Water Taxi service as more information becomes available. The Vashon route will continue to operate normal service.
During this time, Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 and 775 will continue to operate as usual in West Seattle. While Water Taxi service is suspended, riders are encouraged to use one or more of the following options:
Metro’s RapidRide C Line and routes 21, 55, 56, 57, 120 & 125 connect West Seattle to downtown Seattle – close to the Pier 50 passenger only facility located at Alaskan Way and Columbia Street.
Route 128 connects the Admiral District, Morgan Junction, High Point, Delridge, South Seattle College and White Center areas with the West Seattle
Water Taxi shuttle routes 773 & 775 will continue to operate their regular routes and schedules during this time, connecting West
Seattle riders to the West Seattle Junction and Alki Beach via Harbor Avenue, Alki Avenue and North Admiral.
Link light rail
Metro Route 50 connects West Seattle – including North Delridge, the Alaska Junction, the Admiral District and Alki Beach to Link light rail at SODO
We are following up to ask about the problem at Seacrest and whether it’s likely to be fixed by morning.
6:05 PM: From spokesperson Jeff Switzer: “A quarterly inspection identified that a steel pin where the gangway is connected to the shore is damaged. Out of an abundance of caution, until further evaluation and a possible temporary repair can be completed, service on the West Seattle Water Taxi route is canceled until further notice. We expect service will remain suspended Thursday and customers should consider travel alternatives.”
10:03 PM: West Seattle Water Taxi service is officially canceled for Thursday morning. We’ll include any updates in the morning traffic/transit watch.
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
2:39 PM: From King County Transportation:
The M/V Spirit of Kingston (social-distancing passenger capacity of 33) will be on the West Seattle Water Taxi route all evening, replacing the Doc Maynard (86-passenger capacity) while it operates on the Vashon route. The Sally Fox will be out of service tonight while a pilot-house window is replaced. Please plan your commute accordingly in the event that West Seattle customer demand exceeds available capacity on any individual sailing.
The water taxi continues to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through regular cleaning and disinfecting between sailings. Masks are required for both passengers and crew.
3:10 PM: Update – back to normal!
essel Maintenance on the M/V Sally Fox completed early, which allows the Water Taxi to operate at the normal social distancing capacity of 86 on both the West Seattle and Vashon routes. Current ridership has been well below this threshold. Thank you to the engineering team for the expedited work!
In recent weeks, Metro has previewed the “action plan” it’s been working on for West Seattle, post-bridge closure. The plan, which details both what’s been done and what’s ahead, has just gone public. See it in its entirety here or below:
Some of what’s in it has been discussed already at meetings we’ve covered – but if you want every single detail of what’s been discussed and what’s ahead, plus costs and even communication plans, this is your document. This includes the Water Taxi as well as buses and vanpools.
A few excerpts – first, its origins:
A Metro Core team (“WSB Response Team”) was formed immediately following notice of the West Seattle Bridge closure to develop a Metro Transit Action Plan (Plan), which would address the Peninsula’s mobility needs. The closure affected all WS routes that used the West Seattle Bridge (RapidRide C Line, 21, 21X, 37, 50, 55, 56, 57, 116, 118, 119, 120, 125) plus those routes that use the 1st Avenue South/ South Park Bridges (60, 113, 121, 122, 123, 131, 132) which will see extremely congested conditions once traffic approaches pre-COVID levels.
And an overview:
As of the time of publication, Metro and the City of Seattle have identified five high visibility mobility improvements that the two agencies will jointly plan for based on potential availability of third party or other funding. These concepts, including detailed descriptions, annual costs, and transportation benefit will be developed over the course of summer 2020 and would be ready to implement upon a return of demand and identification of funding.
High-Visibility mobility service improvements:
1. Water Taxi service upgrades: up to two boats all-day (peak, off peak, weekend) year round, roughly corresponding to the 5am-9pm daily period when SOVs are not allowed on the low bridge
2. Route 773/775 Water Taxi shuttle improvements: new route(s) and/or substantially increased frequency
3. RapidRide C Line service frequency upgrades: add additional peak and off peak trips
4. All day fixed route service between Admiral and Downtown: such as and all day Route 56, which historically provided this all-day service until 2012)
5. Route 50 service frequency upgrades: add additional peak and off peak trips as far east as Sodo Station
Note that phrase “third-party funding.” The plan refers to the expiring Seattle Transportation Benefit District funding, but it should be noted that a new 6-year STBD funding plan to pay for “extra” Metro service, including some money earmarked for West Seattle, is going to city voters in November.
The ‘action plan” also addresses the current pandemic-specfic challenges:
Currently Metro monitors passenger loads daily and identifies trends in which routes and trips experience crowding beyond COVID-based thresholds. Overcrowding is tracked using per vehicle-based crowding thresholds for social distancing (e.g. 12 passengers on 40’, and 18 passengers on 60’ coaches). Service Development and other teams support the effort. Additional trips are then deployed as needed, and as possible within workforce and budget constraints. The typical turnaround is approximately one week, but we have the ability to move faster if needed, and because these added trips are not published publicly, we do not need to add extra time for customer communications. In general this turnaround time is needed to distinguish between trends and one-off occurrences. We will be further identifying resources available in Metro’s upcoming 2021/2022 budget, but do currently have the ability to add service to quickly meet demand.
The plan also addresses routing alternatives that would be needed if the low bridge was out of commission for either bridge-repair logistics or high-bridge collapse. And it recaps Metro’s plans to expand some service in September:
Table 4 highlights Metro’s fixed route service plan beginning with the September 2020 service change, on Monday, September 21. Most all-day route in West Seattle will operate without temporary reductions or suspensions. Due to reduced funding from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District (STBD), many routes will operate at reduced service levels compared to pre-COVID levels. Peak period service that is currently suspended will resume at reduced service levels due to reduced STBD funding on the following routes:
• Admiral, Alaska Junction, Genesee Hill, Alki (55, 56, 57)
Service suspensions will continue on several West Seattle routes:
• Peak-only downtown-bound Vashon and Fauntleroy service (116, 118 Express, 119 Express)
• Peak-only Alki bus service (37)
• Route 22 service in Arbor Heights, Gatewood, and Alaska Junction (intra-West Seattle)
Additional supplemental service will be available to deploy and quickly respond to crowding issues on West Seattle service as it arises.
One more excerpt of interest – Metro has four park-and-ride lots in West Seattle now but has pondered expanding:
Steps could be taken to expand park & ride capacity serving West Seattle transit routes by:
• Reconfiguring existing lots to yield more spaces. In particular, additional parking spaces could be striped at the Spokane Street park & ride
• Leasing additional parking capacity, concentrated around major bus transfer points. An initial analysis identified up to 93 locations throughout West Seattle that could be appropriate for leasing, including lots serving commercial properties, churches, public parks and residential complexes. This analysis identified up to:
o 550 spaces within walking distance of Seacrest Park
o 375 spaces within walking distance of bus stops at the Admiral Junction
o 430 spaces within walking distance of bus stops at the Alaska Junction
o 130 spaces within walking distance of bus stops at the Morgan Junction
o 315 spaces within walking distance of bus stops and the ferry dock at Fauntleroy
o 1200 spaces within walking distance of bus stops at Westwood Village
• Partnering with technology platforms that match drivers with reserved parking spaces. Metro’s Innovative Mobility group is in talks with Spot Hero and other companies that allow travelers to reserve and pay for parking spaces operated by private owners ranging from retailers to residential property managers. This model could be adapted to help travelers access transit, and could potentially be used to offer TDM incentives
A lot of this is “could” rather than “will,” not just because of funding, but also because they’re just not sure what’ll happen with ridership – many employers, private and public, have extended teleworking until at least the start of next year.
(WSB photo from March, MV Doc Maynard at Seacrest)
We’re reminding you tonight that Metro and the King County Water Taxi are restoring some service tomorrow, after months of much-reduced service levels. For the Water Taxi, you can see the new schedule here. You’re reminded that “it’s important to note that social distancing passenger limits are in effect on the water taxi. The typical capacity aboard both Doc Maynard and Sally Fox is 278 passengers. With current COVID restrictions, we’re limited to 86 passengers on each vessel.” The shuttles, Routes 773 and 775, return to service too. As for Metro, here’s what’s coming back. You can also check here for canceled trips. The system is still fare-free, and buses are still running at reduced capacity too.
Metro says ridership is now 30 percent of normal so as of Monday, it’s reducing service further. The routes to be entirely (temporarlly) cut as of Monday go beyond the 37 and 125 that were already axed – now the list of eliminated-for-now routes includes West Seattle-serving 21X, 55, 56, 57, 113, 116, and the Water Taxi shuttles 773, 775, Most other routes have reductions; a handful of West Seattle-serving routes including the 22, 60, 128, and 131 are keeping most if not all trips. As for the Water Taxi itself, its schedule also will be slashed. Here’s the full announcement (which includes the new WT schedule).
(WSB photo from last month, MV Doc Maynard at Seacrest)
During past traffic crunches, like Alaskan Way Viaduct closures and the Viaduct-to-Tunnel transition, the West Seattle Water Taxi has seen a surge in ridership. The high-rise West Seattle Bridge closure comes at a time when the COVID=19 “stay-home order” has already dramatically reduced ridership, but we were still curious how it’s affected WT usage, so we asked King County.
Spokesperson Torie Rynning provided the newest numbers (PDF). Ridership was actually lower last week than the week before – 167 morning riders total for 3/23-3/27, 196 pm riders, compared to 173/337 for 3/16-3/20. We don’t have the exact numbers for the same period last year but in a Monday post on the Water Taxi blog, Rynning wrote that ridership is overall down 90 percent. That post also addresses the question of whether WT service will be increased because of the bridge closure: For now, it’s clearly not needed, but, “We’ve already assembled a task force that is developing various plans to ramp back up and to add service when ridership demand increases.” In the meantime, the WSWT remains on its five-day-a-week, AM/PM-commute-times-only schedule TFN (in normal times, it would be on the 7-day-a-week spring/summer schedule by now).
(WSB photo from earlier this week, MV Doc Maynard at Seacrest)
The West Seattle Water Taxi was originally supposed to change to the 7-day-a-week spring/summer schedule one week from tomorrow. But that’s now delayed at least a month. Here’s what the King County Department of Transportation says:
We will now postpone the start of peak season service and reevaluate a new start date in one month. We’ll maintain our current winter schedule through April 20, 2020, continuing to provide morning and afternoon commute service from downtown to and from West Seattle and Vashon Island.
Our ridership has decreased 23 percent over the last two weeks as more people are practicing social distancing by staying home or telecommuting. Our vessels are not at capacity and riders who do come on board are able to maintain safe distance in accordance with Public Health guidelines. At this point, it is not a good use of taxpayer resources to add additional service.
Running commute and peak service requires more crew, and we must preserve our crew in order to maintain core commute service in the event that our workforce is affected by COVID-19.
At this time, the water taxi team does not intend to reduce service beyond current service levels.
Most immediately, we’re putting safety first by cleaning and disinfecting our vessels several times daily, including sanitization of handrails, tabletops and seats.
Wondering just how much ridership has dropped? Some stats on both the Water Taxi and Metro buses were published Friday. Between March 2nd and March 12th, daily ridership fell by almost two-thirds.
As previously noted, MV Spirit of Kingston filled in on the West Seattle Water Taxi route again this morning because of MV Doc Maynard‘s U.S. Coast Guard inspection. Now it’s been announced that SoK will continue on the run tonight and tomorrow – always notable because it has a 149-passenger capacity, compared to DM’s 278. Spokesperson Jeff Switzer tells us the DM needs “a sensor” and will return to service once that’s in place.
Thanks to commenter NewNative for the tip that MV Doc Maynard was off the West Seattle Water Taxi run this morning, with no alert to explain. We checked with the county; spokesperson Jeff Switzer explains that Doc Maynard was off the route this morning and will be again tomorrow morning for its “annual Coast Guard inspections.” The smaller MV Spirit of Kingston will fill in again tomorrow morning.
4:33 PM: Just in from the King County Water Taxi: The smaller Spirit of Kingston is handling today’s PM runs, in place of Doc Maynard. (We’re checking to see if that’s expected to continue tomorrow.)
5:04 PM: Spokesperson Torie Rynning tells WSB, “We are hoping to have Doc Maynard back in service tomorrow morning if we can untangle the line wrapped around the propeller tonight.”
8:01 PM: Fixed, so Doc Maynard will be back in service tomorrow.
P.S. Holiday reminder – no Water Taxi service Monday, which is Presidents Day.
(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.
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
For the rest of the winter, the King County Water Taxi‘s backup boat Spirit of Kingston will have a regular spot – Friday mornings on the West Seattle route. KCDOT spokesperson Torie Rynning tells WSB that this starts tomorrow, January 3rd. The regular West Seattle boat, Doc Maynard, will in turn handle the Vashon run on Friday mornings. Rynning cites three reasons for the change:
*Allows the Spirit of Kingston to not sit idle
*Doc Maynard can “get some exercise” on the longer trip to Vashon
*More routine maintenance can be conducted on the Sally Fox
SoK has a little more than half the DM’s passenger capacity, and a lower bicycle capacity too. The 7-day-a-week spring/summer schedule starts March 23rd on the West Seattle run; Vashon service is 5 days a week year-round. (Update: Rynning adds that this might continue past the start of the 7-day schedule.)
(Doc Maynard – WSB photo from August)
After two weeks on the Vashon run, the Doc Maynard returns to the West Seattle route this afternoon, and the smaller Spirit of Kingston goes back to backup status. The Doc Maynard had been filling in for the Vashon route’s regular boat, Sally Fox, while it was out for repairs, which have just been completed.
(Spirit of Kingston – WSB file photo)
Announced this afternoon by the King County Water Taxi:
Due to a mechanical issue on one of the Sally Fox’s main engines, the 149-passenger Spirit of Kingston will replace the 278-passenger Doc Maynard on the West Seattle route. West Seattle riders should plan accordingly given the reduced passenger capacity, especially on the 8:00 and 8:35 morning sailings as well as the 4:45 and 5:25 evening sailings. The Doc Maynard will provide service on the higher ridership Vashon Island route. The Sally Fox repairs are expected to be complete next week, at which time the vessels will return to their usual assignments.
This is the first week of the fall/winter schedule for the Water Taxi, which doesn’t return to 7-day service until March 21, 2020.
Last night, we published WSDOT‘s update of south-downtown traffic-flow changes related to the shifting Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition work. Tonight, an alert is just in for King County Water Taxi riders:
Thursday morning, Yesler Way will be open across Alaskan Way. Pedestrians will need to be on the north side of Yesler in order to cross Alaskan Way. Also, tonight, South Jackson street at Alaskan Way S will be closed.
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