County votes to take closer look at Kirkland water taxi routes

Kirkland and Kenmore could be one step closer to getting water taxis after a Feb. 8 vote by the King County Council approved a report of three proposed routes in the county.

Kirkland and Kenmore could be one step closer to getting water taxis after a Feb. 8 vote by the King County Council approved a report of three proposed routes in the county.

An initial staff report on the routes was finished last year by the Metropolitan King County Council Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee.

Of the 37 initial routes considered, the routes were reduced to the three most feasible, including routes from Kenmore’s Log Boom Park to the University of Washington, Kirkland’s Marina Park to UW and Ballard to downtown Seattle, the report said.

In order to make the cut, the three routes all had a less than 40 minute discrepancy between the water taxis and other mass transit options, like bus routes.

The three routes are projected to recover 10 percent of implementation costs at startup, and 25 percent after ten years.

Total startup costs for Kenmore, Kirkland and Ballard amount to $9.14 million, $8.61 million and $5.36 million, respectively.

Total time for all three routes is also longer than alternative transit options by between 12 to 28 percent, with Kenmore’s water taxi projected to add an around 26 minutes to a round-trip commute downtown. Notable exceptions include shorter evening commute times between either the Kenmore or Kirkland terminals and UW, the report said.

The report said the water taxi may become a more attractive transit mode as area traffic congestion increases.

However, Kenmore Mayor David Baker said this projection may not have taken into account synchronizing transit schedules to provide buses immediately upon departing the ferry, or linking up with the projected Sound Transit 3 light rail.

“We’ve had a lot of people very, very interested in a passenger-only ferry,” he said.

Cost-per-passenger for the county could also be high, with Kenmore passenger costs at $33.57, $29.24 for Kirkland and $25.59 for the Ballard route.

But Baker said the West Seattle water taxi, as an example, makes around 33 cents back per cost-dollar in fares, so ferry tickets could be between $8 to $11 for the three proposed routes. A levy would be needed to subsidize the county’s cost.

A lack of parking at Log Boom Park, the site of the proposed Kenmore terminal, was cited as a problem with a shuttle between the Kenmore Park and Ride and the terminal being proposed, the report said. Ideally, according to the report, Lakepointe could be used as a dedicated terminal if the city acquires it in the future.

Shortage of parking was also identified as a problem at the Kirkland Marina Park terminal location. A circulator shuttle was added to the proposed service.

Kenmore levy rates for the taxi would be 29 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, or around $14 annually for a $500,000 home. This would be between 50 cents to a $1 more annually than the other two routes.

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