Water Taxi ridership sailed deep into unchartered waters in 2016

Ridershp on the King County Water Taxi reached a record 601,942 in 2016.

By Paul Brodeur, Marine Division Director

By the time the sun set on 2016, King County Water Taxi saw the largest annual ridership increase in our history.

Year-end counts show a record 601,942 boardings – a figure that shatters our previous record of 515,207 in 2015.

That also represents a record increase of 86,735 riders – almost 17 percent – over the previous year. It’s the single-largest jump in terms of number of riders since we began service as the King County Ferry District in 2009.

A closer look at the numbers finds that:

  • Our West Seattle route saw 380,396 boardings, a spike of 67,049 riders, or 21.4 percent from 2015. Both figures represent some of the largest year-to-year increases since we began service.
  • Our Vashon Island route saw 221,546 boardings, a jump of 19,686 riders, or 10 percent from 2015. Again, both figures represent some of the largest increases in this route’s history.

A handful of busy periods throughout the year also contributed to the increases:

  • During the Alaskan Way Viaduct closure for several days in April and May, riders used the Water Taxi as an alternative to traveling heavily congested city streets – and ridership increased by more than 16,000.
  • Strong summertime ridership – including commuters and sightseers – also fueled the record this year. More than 24,000 additional riders boarded during June, July and August compared to summer 2015.

We’re just as proud that despite the record increase in riders, King County Water Taxi maintained a near-perfect record of reliability in 2016. We made all but 13 of the 13,604 scheduled trips, or 99.9 percent. The handful we canceled were due to weather, mechanical and other issues.

As far as being on time, well, again our record speaks for itself. Of the 13,591 trips completed in 2016, more than 98 percent were on time – that’s right, 98 percent!

The numbers illustrate how popular the Water Taxi has become for commuters (as well as how amazing our loyal riders are). In all, the Water Taxi has connected 3.5 million riders between Downtown Seattle, West Seattle and Vashon Island since we began.

We’re a little biased, but we think the Water Taxi will be a great way to get around Puget Sound in 2017. Not only does riding with us eliminate the stress of driving into downtown, but we’re an affordable, efficient way of connecting Seattle to the rest of the region.

Water Taxi is operated by the King County Department of Transportation Marine Division. In November, the King County Council approved the two-year budget proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine that included funding the West Seattle and Vashon Island routes this year and in 2018.

Thank you to everyone who helped us reach these amazing milestones in 2016, and here’s to even better news in 2017.

3 thoughts on “Water Taxi ridership sailed deep into unchartered waters in 2016

  1. 2017 has brought a number of unexpected cancellations. Where commuters on the Vashon water taxi were notified in line 10 minutes prior to the 5:30 pm sailing that the water taxi was canceled. For the commuters to Southworth this ment having to get home at 8:30 or 7:30. The 85 or 86 bus stops picking up riders at 7:10 pm at the Southworth ferry terminal. Leaving commuters stranded in Southworth. When the water taxi is canceled for Vashon Island, the King County water taxi system needs to work with Kitsap County transportation to communicate the cancellations so the 85 and 86 buses, so they can run later and avoid riders being stranded.

  2. Hi Sylvia-

    Thank you for your feedback to the King County Water Taxi regarding Vashon service cancellations.

    I apologize for the recent cancellations due to weather conditions and any inconveniences they may have caused. Though we try to give as much advance notice as possible prior to cancellations, on occasion, severe changing weather conditions will cause us to cancel on short notice. One advice I might offer (if you haven’t already) would be to subscribe to our alert system. This can provide both texts and emails to warn you of these events, typically before you would hear while lined up at the dock. Information about subscribing can be found on our website.

    I will also relay your comments to Kitsap Transit to remind them of these challenges related to our service interruptions and confirm they are receiving our alerts. This will hopefully draw their attention to Kitsap riders being delayed getting home.


    Greg Lerner, Shoreside Operations and Customer Services Manager

  3. Vashon would like a 5:30am water taxi to downtown. It would make much more sense to have the 5:30a sailing leave from Vashon as the 5:20a car ferry to west Seattle only takes a handful of cars because it’s full from Southworth cars. For those who have to be at work downtown by 6a, the options are very limited. I would be interested to know how I can lobby for this change and what I need to do.

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