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New water taxi on Elliott Bay, gears up for viaduct closure

West Seattle Taxi "Doc Maynard"

SEATTLE -- King County's newest water taxi is now on Elliott Bay, shuttling passengers back and forth between downtown and West Seattle. The county says the first and only passenger on that the first run from downtown to West Seattle, was a high school teacher, who daily relies on the service.

This new vessel, the MV Doc Maynard (chosen by popular vote), is larger than its predecessor. It holds 278 passengers; 131 more than the boat it replaces. And it can carry 26 bikes.

"It's definitely a step up; a nice ride, plenty of capacity too," said John Hauser, who's been using some form of the West Seattle Water Taxi since 1997.

King County started planning for this new ferry 10 years ago and christened it in September 2015. The vessel spent the past several months on the Vashon Island route, covering for another boat in for maintenance.

Just as the Doc Maynard hit the water, the county hit a milestone.

"Our ridership has grown year in and year out. We just got the ridership numbers yesterday. We went over 500,000, a half million riders," said Paul Brodeur, the director of the King County Marine Division.

The county recorded more than 200,000 riders on the West Seattle route plus 300,000 on the Vashon Island run in 2015. That's more than a 10 percent jump over 2014.

These additional commuters each looking for that quicker route off the highway; the trip from West Seattle to downtown, just 8 minutes.

The numbers show how many more people are looking for that faster commute and that number's likely to grow, at least for the 2 weeks the Alaskan Way Viaduct will be shut down this spring. Brodeur said they're already working on a strategy to handle it.

"So that we can have a plan in place to carry even more people, offer more parking down here on the street and maybe remotely to get people out of their cars and into the water taxi and downtown directly," said Brodeur.

With very little parking near Seacrest Dock, the county operates two shuttles that circulate to and from the West Seattle Junction, plus the Admiral District and Alki Avenue SW.

Brodeur said they will be ready for that closure of the viaduct when it happens, hoping to capture more permanent passengers.

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