King County Water Taxi

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King County Water Taxi
King County Water Taxi logo.svg
King County Water Taxi Downtown Seattle.jpg
Locale King County, Washington
Waterway Elliott Bay
Transit type Water taxi
Owner King County Ferry District
Operator King County Ferry District
No. of lines 2
No. of vessels 3
No. of terminals 3
Daily ridership 1,170 (Average, 2012) [1]
Website King County Water Taxi
King County Water Taxi at Seattle's Pier 50

The King County Water Taxi is a service operated by the King County Ferry District. It operates two routes, the West Seattle/Downtown Seattle route (formerly known as Elliott Bay Water Taxi and West Seattle Water Taxi) and the Vashon Island/Downtown Seattle route.[1]


Downtown Seattle/West Seattle[edit]

The Sightseer served as the original Elliott Bay Water Taxi, operated from Pier 55 by a private company. After King County assumed water taxi operations, the Sightseer remained in private service as a passenger charter.[2]

The West Seattle route crosses Elliott Bay from Pier 50 on the downtown Seattle waterfront to Seacrest Dock in West Seattle. As of mid 2013, the primary ferry for the route is MV Spirit of Kingston.[3] The ferry's crossing time is approximately ten minutes,[4] and passengers may pay with cash, PugetPass or ORCA Card.[4] The water taxi operates seven days a week during the summer and on weekdays only during the winter.[4] The route operates extended hours on Fridays when the Mariners, Sounders, or Seahawks play games that start after 7 PM.[5]

The ferry is used for commuting, getting as many as 1,500 riders daily in July and August,[6] and has even become a popular tourist attraction due to Seacrest park's beautiful views, the short walk to Alki Beach and the restaurants in West Seattle.[7]

The King County Ferry District also operates two bus shuttle routes that connect to Seacrest Dock. Route 775 connects to the Admiral District and route 773 connects to the West Seattle Junction.

Downtown Seattle/Vashon Island[edit]

Also operating from Pier 50 is another King County Water Taxi that goes to Vashon Island, which operates on weekdays and takes about 22 minutes.[1] There are six sailings in either direction every weekday, three for the morning commute and three for the evening commute.

The route was previously operated by Washington State Ferries with MV Skagit and MV Kalama until September 2009 when WSF was ordered[clarification needed] to end its passenger-only service. The route is currently operated by MV Melissa Ann and carries an average of 400 commuters per direction in a day.

At the Vashon Island Ferry Terminal, connecting services include Washington State Ferries with routes to both Fauntleroy and Southworth and King County Metro, which operate bus routes 118 and 119 on Vashon Island.


West Seattle is the oldest neighborhood [8] and the birthplace of the city of Seattle. It is surrounded on three sides by water and has both enjoyed and suffered its isolation from the "mainland" of downtown Seattle.

The first licensed ferry in the Seattle area[9] launched on December 24, 1888 traveled from Seacrest Park in West Seattle to downtown Seattle, as well as other water-bound location throughout the Puget Sound. It was a steam-powered sidewheel ship named the City of Seattle and made two trips a day, carrying West Seattle homesteaders east to the city, and weekend vacationers west to the beachfront.[10]

Prior to that time, the old so-called Mosquito Fleet[11] of steam powered boats carried travelers to and from numerous islands and peninsulas in the Puget Sound area. The West Seattle Water Taxi was discontinued when the first bridge across the Duwamish River was built.

Over time, a succession of bridges were installed to connect the West Seattle peninsula to downtown proper, beginning with the old wood-and-rail Spokane Street bridge in 1920. In 1970, calls for a modern solution brought attention to the growing problem of commuting to downtown; in 1978, the freighter ship Chavez crashed into the lower bridge[12] requiring a new high rise bridge that is still the main path into and out of West Seattle today.

As West Seattle has grown in popularity, travel in and out of the city has become more congested. The Water Taxi was brought back to life in 1998 by King County Metro and has been the subject of much debate ever since. It is a particular favorite of those catching a Mariners baseball game in nearby Safeco Field.

The King County Ferry District originally operated it from April to October, but now operates it year-round, carrying between 500 and 1,000 people downtown everyday. For the 2009 season, the service was renamed from the Elliott Bay Water Taxi to the King County Water Taxi.[13] In 2010, water taxi service began year-round operation with a new vessel and accessibility improvements at the Seacrest dock.[4]

In March, 2013, the District added a third vessel to its fleet by acquiring the Spirit of Kingston for service on the West Seattle/Downtown Seattle route.[14]


  • The Spirit of Kingston was acquired in March 2013 and currently serves on the Downtown Seattle to West Seattle route.
  • The Melissa Ann runs the Downtown Seattle to Vashon Island route.
  • The Rachel Marie, sister ship of the Melissa Ann, currently is the spare boat but ran the Downtown Seattle to West Seattle route before the Spirit of Kingston entered service.


  1. ^ a b c "Water Taxi". King County, Washington. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  2. ^ "Fleet". Argosy Cruises. Retrieved 2014-08-28. 
  3. ^ Water Taxi Newsletter, King County Department of Transportation, Summer 2013, retrieved 2013-10-15 
  4. ^ a b c d King County Metro information page on Elliott Bay Water Taxi
  5. ^ "West Seattle/Downtown Seattle Sailing schedule". King County Department of Transportation. 2010-03-26. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  6. ^ Water taxi, [dead link]
  7. ^ Amy Kate Horn (April 25, 2007), "The Poor Man's Yacht", The Stranger, retrieved 2013-10-15 
  8. ^ "West Seattle History".
  9. ^ "West Seattle Ferry".
  10. ^ Alki Beach History
  11. ^ "Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet".
  12. ^ "West Seattle Bridge Chavez accident". Bridgepros.
  13. ^ King County Water Taxi Fact Sheet
  14. ^ Spirit of Kingston now part of water taxi fleet, West Seattle Herald, March 18, 2013, retrieved 2013-04-05