Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It's official: no Water Taxis for Lake Washington

As expected, the King County Ferry District Board of Supervisors (aka the King County Council) voted this month to defer the start date of possible demonstration routes for Water Taxi service on Lake Washington. As we reported in September, Madison Park was already out of the running as a destination point for the new service, but Leschi remained a candidate. Although service was scheduled to begin on two foot-ferry demonstration routes in 2010, the Ferry District's reversal at minimum postpones the start date and, more likely, probably kills the project for the foreseeable future.

Politics is at the heart of the decision, as the idea of the County's expanding ferry service while simultaneously limiting Metro bus service did not sit well with a lot of people. The subject came up during the recent King County Executive election campaign; and the County Council members, who also constitute the Ferry District Board, were certainly aware of the potential negative fallout of going forward with ferry expansion plans.

The method used by the Board to stop expansion of the ferry routes was to cut the Ferry District levy for 2010, thereby choking off tax revenues to the Ferry District that would have funded the operation. The demonstration routes were expected to cost $1.2 million in 2010 and another 1.36 million in 2011. The original property-tax rate, set in 2007, was 5.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation for King County properties. This will be reduced to .3 cents for 2010, allowing the King County Council to increase the property tax by a proportional amount to fund Metro bus services. Thus, property owners will pay the same total levy, but the tax support for transportation will be directed to buses rather than ferries.

The existing King County Water Taxi routes from West Seattle and Vashion Island into downtown will continue next year.

[Photo courtesy of the King County Ferry District.]

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