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Lake Washington water taxi service could be on its way

A fast ferry could connect Seattle and Renton by around 2020

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A private developer is planning to run a water taxi across Lake Washington and Lake Union between Renton and Seattle.

Last week, Seco Development announced that they’re working on running a passenger-only ferry between Renton and Southport—where Seco’s offices are located—to South Lake Union in Seattle, right in the middle of Seattle’s tech boom. The company hopes to have service up and running in 2020.

A commute across the lake would bypass road traffic—and since Renton doesn’t have grade-separated transportation to Seattle, there are currently few options for avoiding traffic on that commute.

While there’s no concrete municipal involvement at this time, Seco’s been in talks with various public agencies. King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement that he’s “encouraged” by the project. Washington State Transportation Commissioner Shiv Batra said water taxis are “another option in a community’s transportation arsenal.” Renton mayor said “it makes sense to explore” how a water taxi can help meet Renton’s growing transportation needs.

“A water taxi immediately serves the transportation needs of the area in a conscious, eco-friendly way,” said Seco CEO Michael Christ in a statement. He said the boats will “operate at low-wake speeds, preserving the beauty of our shoreline and respecting homeowners along the lake while addressing the apparent gap in transportation alternatives in our region.”

In 2015, a Nerdwallet report found that 73 percent of people who commute to Seattle from Renton drive alone—and less than 7 percent use public transportation. Their average commute time is about 28 minutes, a trip that can take around an hour by bus under ideal conditions.

The route time is still being worked out, Seco’s Rocale Timmons told us they’ve calculated the travel time at about 45 minutes. Seco is planning on including standing desks, high-speed internet, and coffee and snack delivery with the service so commuters can work on the trip.

“Starting with a number of mixed-use developments in downtown Bellevue in the early 1990s and continuing with Juanita Village in Kirkland, Island Square and 77 Central in Mercer Island, Seco has focused on developing projects close to transit and transportation hubs,” Timmons told us. “As developers, however, we also realize that we have a responsibility to address the challenges associated with growth and we strongly believe a water taxi is one such way to do this.”

The announcement comes amid renewed interest in water taxis and fast ferries. Over the past few months, Tacoma city councilor Ryan Mello has been exploring the possibility of running a fast ferry between Seattle and Tacoma.

King County already runs two water taxi lines across the Puget Sound, one to West Seattle and another to Vashon Island.

In the past, though, boats were a far more popular means of transportation. From the 1850s to the 1930s, a fleet of steamships known as the “mosquito fleet” ferried passengers all across the Puget Sound. Within the city, steamships ran across Lake Union to neighborhoods like Fremont.

Seco’s plan is still in the early stages. They’re working with the county and other stakeholders to figure out routes, terminal locations, and other logistics, and working with KPFF Consulting Engineers, who have worked with ferry operators across North America, including Washington State Ferries, to develop a business plan and cost model.

This article has been updated with additional information from Seco.

Lake Union

, , WA