West Seattle Water Taxi becomes popular alternative to 'Viadoom'

Oct 24, 2011

So far – not so bad. That seems to be the upshot of the first weekday commute without the Alaskan Way Viaduct through Seattle. Traffic was slow, but not totally gridlocked Monday morning.

The state Department of Transportation says many people heeded their warnings and changed their commute patterns. That was certainly the case on board the West Seattle water taxi, which picked up nearly twice as many riders.

Despite the addition of two more round trips for the morning, three of Monday’s early sailings to downtown sold out: 7:15, 7:45 and 8:15.

The surge

Regular riders said the sudden surge was a little surprising.

“I was told I was  number 136 in line and only 150 were gonna board,” said Lisa Parriot, who chose the water taxi over the bus because she thought it would be faster. It was – but also a lot more crowded than she expected.

“I got here an hour earlier and I’m glad I did,"  added Brian (who did not give his last name.) "By the time we got on the boat there was probably 200 people. So not everybody got on,” he said. He and his daughter made it onto the first of the three boats that sold out.  

Permanent change?

Despite the lines, many West Seattle ferry riders say it’s still a more pleasant commute than in a car or bus. The captain is hoping people change their habits permanently - and wasn't shy about broadcasting it.

With any luck this won’t be a one-time thing, we hope to see all of you afterwards,"  the captain announced over the ferry loudspeaker, encouraging new riders to pick up schedules during their ride "…welcome aboard - good morning.

The King County ferry district that runs the water taxi said eight of Monday morning's sailings from West Seattle to downtown did not sell out. 318 seats went empty.

But what happens the rest of the week is anyone’s guess.

Missed debut

One wrinkle in well laid plans has been ironed out.

Just in time for the expected rush of riders for the viaduct closure, the West Seattle water taxi's regular boat, the Rachel Marie, broke down.

So riders Monday morning were on its twin vessel, the Melissa Ann. That boat is normally on the water taxi's Vashon Island route. The Victoria Clipper III filled in on the Vashon run until the Rachel Marie was fixed.

A lively discussion of that issue is on the West Seattle Blog.

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