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Expanded water taxi service means easier access to and from Seattle for Vashon Islanders

caption: The King County water taxi between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle is adding eight new weekday afternoon sailings starting Monday, July 1.
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The King County water taxi between Vashon Island and downtown Seattle is adding eight new weekday afternoon sailings starting Monday, July 1.
Tom Banse

For the first time in years, the King County water taxi is expanding its sailings.

King County officials, along with Vashon Island residents, gathered in Seattle Thursday morning to celebrate the expansion of the water taxi service. An inaugural sailing with 63 passengers was met with excitement and hope.

“It will ease me being able to get to specialist medical appointments,” said cardiac patient Rick Wallace. “We're in the middle of a ferry crisis. So this expansion of water taxi service is just a great day for Vashon.”

Wallace is a Vashon Island resident, and a member of Islanders for Ferry Action, a steering committee started by the Vashon Island Chamber of Commerce.

Funding for the additional sailing comes from a $3.17 million appropriation for Metro by the Washington state Legislature.

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Eight new weekday afternoon sailings will begin Monday, July 1. The passenger-only ferry will connect riders between the Vashon Island Ferry Terminal and Pier 50 in downtown Seattle.

“If I [need to go to] Seattle, to see my cardiologist, it takes months to get one of those appointments. And if the ferry doesn't run, then I don't get my appointment, and have to wait more months,” Wallace said. “So with the water taxi, I now have an alternative.”

Wallace said he and his fellow islanders are looking forward to enjoying museums and afternoon Mariners’ games with less logistics.

The water taxi service expansion is made possible due to collaborative partnerships with the community, county, and state.

Terry Federer with King County Metro’s Marine Division said this is a significant change for the island.

“We haven't changed our sailing schedule for Vashon Island for many, many years,” Federer said.

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Service will grow from 12 to 20 trips a day.

“[Now] there's just more opportunity to access our space. Living on an island is challenging, not being able to access certain resources is challenging,” Federer said. “We have essential workers on the island that need to get to jobs. We have folks that have doctor's appointments that [it’s] sometimes really hard for them to get to Seattle to make those appointments. So this being a passenger-only ferry service, we're a bit more nimble, and we're able to move people around a little bit quicker, in some cases.”

The county said the water taxi is a great way to avoid traffic and enjoy beautiful views.

“We're part of King County, [but] we literally have a physical divide,” Wallce said. “Sometimes people kind of forget that, you know, there's the moat there. And it [impacts] our ability to participate in King County's life, and [mainlanders] ability to participate in our life on the island. [This new service is] crucial in so many ways.”

Both Wallace and Federer praised public officials and other water taxi advocates who helped make the expanded service possible.

“I'm extremely proud of our team and in the Marine Division and the efforts that they put together to bring this service together in such short order,” Federer said. “It's not easy to change schedules to recruit people.”

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Federer also thanked King County as a whole for coming together to provide the time and resources to make the necessary changes.

“We are honored to be able to serve the island community and we are excited to support our customers on the island,” Federer said.

Wallace also commended Washington state lawmakers.

“I tell people that they need to thank the legislators who made this possible,” he said. “Too many times we think about our government not listening to us. And in this case, they listened.”

It takes about 22 minutes to go from Seattle to Vashon on the water taxi. The new ferry schedule can be found online starting Saturday, June 29.

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