Elliott Bay view of a water taxi arriving at Colman Dock downtown Seattle on a very cloudy day.
A King County Water Taxi approaches Pier 50 at Colman Dock. (Stephen Fesler)

King County Metro’s passenger-only ferry between West Seattle and Colman Dock at Pier 50 will mostly see summer sailing service maintained year-round. That means midday and weekend sailings will continue as part of the winter service changes starting October 16.

“We are excited to maintain a service that many people have come to depend on,” Terry Federer, director of the marine division, said in a statement. “The year-round service also allows the water taxi to maintain a regular staffing schedule since it’s no longer necessary to reduce staff at the end of the summer sailing season.”

The summer sailing schedule on the West Seattle water taxi is modest, but runs regularly as follows:

  • Monday through Thursday – Every 35 minutes during peak hours and every 60 minutes off-peak with sailings from 5:55am to 7:05pm.
  • Friday – Every 35 minutes during peak hours and every 60 minutes off-peak with sailings from 5:55am to 11:00pm.
  • Saturday – Every 60 minutes with sailings from 8:30am to 11:00pm.
  • Sunday – Every 60 minutes with sailings from 8:30am to 7:00pm.
  • King County Metro will suspend service for the route the weekend of October 14 and 15. This will allow for vessel maintenance.

With the winter service change, the main schedule adjustment will be the span of service on Fridays and Saturdays. Sailings will end several hours earlier at around 7:00pm.

Prior to the closure of the West Seattle High Bridge for repairs in 2020, Metro would significantly reduce the West Seattle water taxi service off-season. That meant no midday and weekend sailings, but as mitigation for the bridge closure, Seattle provided funding to offer those sailings. Then as part of pilot program starting last year, Metro’s marine division continued to fund the midday and weekend sailings. The agency has found that ridership remains high enough to justify the higher winter service levels.

“The water taxi continues to deliver a reliable, enjoyable ride as part of Seattle’s transit infrastructure,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Maintaining seven-day-a-week service creates a regular option that allows people to stay out of their cars and get where they need to go.”

Crossing times of Elliott Bay are relatively short at about 10 to 15 minutes on the water taxi. Connecting shuttle buses from Seacrest Park operate in tandem with the water taxi with Route 773 serving the Junction and Route 775 serving the Admiral District and Alki.

Fares on the water taxi are higher than regular Metro services. Adult fares are $5.75 with cash or ticket and $5.00 with an ORCA card.

The winter service level commitment is a positive evolution for the water taxi, which certainly is the most scenic way to travel between downtown and Alki Beach, but also can become a dependable part of the transit network year-round.

Article Author

Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.