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NOTE: This tip is out of date. It refers to the service as it existed in 2009, but there were some very significant changes to the service in 2010. I have kept this old tip in place, however, as this service is operated by a contract operator, and should various conditions change, the service could return to the way it looked in 2009 rather than the 2010 service.
Therefore, to see the new service, please see my King County Water Taxi 2010 tip at
I am keeping this tip here for the photos of what this service looked like when I was there, plus as a record of what this service may look like with another change in operators.
*****Outdated information follows*******
The king county water taxi service from downtown Seattle to West Seattle is really more of a tradition than a useful service for commuters - and yet locals do use the service as well. The service only operates when there are tourists around (April to October). Buses running between West Seattle and downtown Seattle are far more frequent and cheaper, and have better connections in downtown Seattle with the rest of the transit system. However, the service is popular enough with locals that special late night services are offered during weekdays that the Mariners have evening games.
On the other hand, this ferry service is what opened up the Alki Peninsula for recreation, and made West Seattle a destination resort location for the population of Seattle to visit the beaches.
The King County Water Taxi is funded by King County Transit, but is operated under contract to a private operator, and therefore you will not find this service intermixed with the regular government run ferry operators - instead, the boats depart from the Argossy Cruises terminal (pier 55), with is somewhat north of the ferry terminal. [NOTE: as of early 2010, this is no longer the case. Despite there still being some signs on the Argossy Cruises Pier mentioning the King County Water Taxi, the service has now consolidated with the passenger only ferry to Vashion Island, located at the far south of the Waterfront area. See my King County Water Taxi 2010 tip] The fact that this service is offered from this location is very hard to determine: Argossy Cruises services are advertised on a huge sign in front of the pier, but only a small sandwitchboard sign on the sidewalk, which is easily blocked by groups of people standing and talking, gives any indication that this is where the King County Water Taxi departs for West Seattle.
The fare here is $3 per trip. This is a bit more expensive than taking the bus over to West Seattle. However, you are issued a bus transfer when you pay this fare. This means that your best bet for getting the best use out of that $3 is to use the Water Taxi as the start of a King County Metro bus trip someplace, rather than use the water taxi as the final leg of a trip.
However, that $3 fare becomes $1 if you present a valid King County Metro bus transfer. So, even if you do use the water taxi as the final leg of a public transit trip, you can get a bit of a discount with a bus transfer.
Free bus services around West Seattle and the Alki Peninsula are offered as part of the water taxi service. They meet the water taxi at its West Seattle destination: Seacrest Park.
There is an upstairs observation deck on the craft. [NOTE: The equipment changed for 2010, and is different than that pictured. See my King County Water Taxi 2010 tip, but keep in mind that the equipment could just as easily change back to the Argossy ship shown here as well, should the operator change again.]
There are tables in the downstairs section, and snacks and some beverages are available from the food vendor window.
While the boat is "passenger only" and therefore no motor vehicles are able to be taken, non-motorized bicycles may be taken on board.
Note about Mobility Devices: While it is equipped to handle a number of different mobility devices, it is advised that tide levels and weather conditions may make it difficult or impossible for the water taxi to take on some or all types of mobility devices. Signs and literature advise people using mobility devices to call Argossy Cruises, who are the current contract operators of the water taxi, for specific access information for particular dates and times.
A Second Note: see my King County Water Taxi 2010 tip as there has been some effort at altering the facilities to more frequently meet the standards of the Americans with Disability Acts standards. The problem is the old dock ramps would be difficult to navigate in a wheelchair at certain tide and weather conditions. It hasn't been completely solved, but it has been improved.
Updated Feb 17, 2012
In years past, West Seattle had a reputation for all manner of eccentric decorations on the houses facing the water. These older West Seattle houses are, today, rapidly disappearang in favor of much less interesting condominium buildings that are basically mass produced housing. However, you can still see traces of this all along the Alki Peninsula.
If you are physically able to do so, I suggest walking for at least a little distance along the Alki Beach Walkway (along the water's edge along Harbor Avenue and Alki Avenue), so that you are able to stop for a while and look at some of the more interesting buildings in detail.
The new, big condominium buildings are a sharp contrast to the older houses, and the older houses are usually the ones with the interesting decorations and architecture. As time goes on, fewer and fewer of these houses will survive, and be replaced by new, larger, and frankly quite boring buildings.
Updated Dec 10, 2009
With beaches on Pugest Sound, you can expect a few hazards on the Alki Peninsula and the West Seattle beaches. All of these hazards are clearly marked, but for the sake of completeness I will report the dangers here:
1. Marine animals are heavy and can get angry. Therefore, if one has decided to take up a spot on the beach next to you, don't go walking up to sea lions or seals and expect to pet them. In fact, try not to disturb them if you can avoid it. They are in fact wild animals and are dangerous to have contact with.
Especially don't feed them, as they can get in fights over food, or get over-ambitious in their desires to get food from you. Neither of these situations is a good one.
2. There are a large number of toxic substances in the water of Puget Sound. Therefore, if you come here for fishing, don't eat the fish shown as being hazardous on the signs (carp or pikeminnow) due to the contamination levels in these fish. The maximum level of consumption for cutthroat trout is only once per month, due to contamination levels. Sockeye, Rainbow Trout, Pumpkin Seed Fish, and Yellow Perch are considered acceptable to eat 2 to 3 meals per week due to the relatively low contamination of those fish.
Pictures of each of these types of fish are available on the signs in various locations along the Alki Peninsula and West Seattle.
The web site below is from the Washington Department of Health, and there is a section on this web site about toxic material in fish, and what areas of the state are problem areas for certain types of fish.
Updated Dec 3, 2009