Friday, September 11, 2009

Madison Park loses out on Water Taxi route

Madison Park has apparently missed the boat on becoming a port for the Lake Washington Water Taxi service contemplated by King County. The County already runs a passenger-only Water Taxi from West Seattle to Downtown, and the County’s plan has been to test the waters of Lake Washington by possibly creating a similar service here on one or more routes. Although Madison Park was initially considered one of five “primary destinations” for a Water Taxi demonstration route, don’t expect to be taking public transportation across the Lake any time soon. The King County Ferry District’s Board of Supervisors has eliminated Madison Park from consideration for a summer 2010 run.

Leschi, on the other hand, made the cut and as of last month remained in the running for three possible routes across the Lake next year: Kenmore/Leschi, Kirkland/Leschi, and Renton/Leschi. Madison Park had also been a possible destination from each of these three Lake cities, but the Ferry District concluded last year that Leschi had major advantages over Madison Park. The principal downside to Madison Park, according to a recent study prepared for the Ferry District, is that our dock is inadequate and would have to be rebuilt or expanded to handle ferry traffic:

This situation also existed at the University of Washington’s Sakuma Viewpoint site, which was also eliminated from consideration by the Ferry District. Because the demonstration routes were intended for service beginning in June 2010, there simply would not be enough time to design a facility, get the necessary environmental permitting, and complete construction in that short timeframe. Leschi, on the other hand, has a dock that could accommodate ferry traffic without significant modification, according to the study:

This gives Leschi a leg up for the potential 2010 run, but Madison Park and the UW Sakuma Viewpoint site each “remain a candidate for implementation (of ferry service) in 2011 and beyond.” So state the authors of the study.

In addition to the potential Leschi routes, two other across-Lake routes have remained under consideration by the Ferry District: Kenmore/UofW Waterfront Activities Center, and Kirkland/UofW Waterfront Activities Center. Two non-Lake Washington demonstration routes are also possibilities: Ballard Shilshole Bay Marina/Pier 50 and Des Moines Marina/Pier 50. The District earlier had eliminated several routes (such as Renton/Bellevue and Ballard/South Lake Union) due to other risk factors. So, from an original 20 possible routes under consideration for 2010 service, seven routes remained as of May 2009; and these were the subject of the recently released study, authored by KPFF Consulting Engineers.

This map details the remaining possibilities:

The study evaluated three principal risk (meaning schedule-delay) factors for each of the possible routes: environmental and land use issues, potential ridership, and the anticipated level of community support. Interestingly, Leschi does not rank as low risk in the study for any of these factors, and the three proposed Leschi routes are all rated as “medium” risk overall, as is the Kirkland/UW route. The two non-Lake Washington routes, each of which would land at Pier 50, are both rated “low” risk overall. Among the risks of the Leschi routes, according to the study, is the unknown reaction of the local community to the idea of a Water Taxi landing in its midst.

That would also have to be considered a problem with regard to Madison Park, assuming we were back in the running for waterborne taxi service. Apparently no one from the County has ever told the Madison Park Community Council that our dock was a possible Water Taxi landing site. When I told MPCC President Ken Myrabo what I had learned about the County process, he replied “that’s news to me.”

But before anyone here, or in Leschi for that matter, gets too worked up about the downside impact of Water Taxis, take note that the County is out of money and the whole idea of having a demonstration project on Lake Washington (or an additional one on Puget Sound) may be undergoing some rethinking. I am told by a King County Marine Division employee that the Executive Committee of the Ferry District’s Board of Supervisors may be recommending that the Supervisors put the project on hold. If that happens, you’ll hear about it here.

[Photos courtesy of the King County Ferry District. Map, from the KPFF study, by Berk & Associates.]


  1. I'm sort of glad we aren't going to get a water taxi here. It would cause even more parking issues around the Park.

    Great article btw. Incredibly well-researched.


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