Proposition 1 failed, but Puget Sounders may be able to start skipping those rickety bridges entirely after the King County Ferry District Board—also known as "the King County Council"—passed a property tax levy of 5.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on Nov. 13 that will eventually fund passenger ferry routes across Elliott Bay and Lake Washington. But West Seattle architect and water transit enthusiast Vlad Oustimovitch, who unveiled plans last August for a comprehensive ferry fleet based at West Seattle's Pier 2, is concerned the district may be throwing away cash on upgrades to nearby Seacrest Pier in its haste to get the now-seasonal Elliott Bay Water Taxi running year-round by 2009. (The levy, which will apply beginning in 2008, is expected to yield revenues of $18.3 million and fund five additional demonstration routes, originating in Kirkland, Kenmore, Shilshole, Renton, and Des Moines.)
In order to fund the Elliott Bay-to-downtown route year-round, Chris Arkills, senior legislative assistant to King County council member Dow Constantine, says a permanent docking space must be constructed at Seacrest, where the water taxi has docked since its 1997 inception. The county is currently using a floating apparatus at the location that must be removed during the winter.
Arkills says the county expects the construction at Seacrest to cost about $2 million. But Oustimovitch wants to see Seacrest scrapped altogether in favor of what he considers to be a superior site at Pier 2—in part, he says, because he expects ridership to increase dramatically if and when construction begins on the crumbling Alaskan Way Viaduct. Last summer, water taxi ridership jumped 32 percent, carrying about 2,300 passengers during the nine days of major I-5 construction in August. (Overall ridership for the month of August rose nearly 17 percent to 32,310, up from 27,632 in 2006.)
Arkills says Constantine actually prefers the Pier 2 location, but says the process of construction at that location would require at least three years, even though implementing year-round service at Seacrest isn't expected to take significantly less time. That said, Arkills says Pier 2 is still part of the council's long-term plan for a Puget Sound mosquito fleet.