The old Kirkland–Madison Park route. Could Tacoma be next?

Ever sit in southbound I-5 traffic, say in Fife or Federal Way, and think, “Anything would be better than this?” Now imagine commuting in a window seat, taking in the Vashon Island shoreline and harbor seals jumping waves.

Encouraged by the success of Bremerton’s new high-speed foot ferry, Tacoma city council member Ryan Mello requested a Seattle–Tacoma passenger ferry feasibility study. The December report estimates such a route would take less than an hour each way, beating the Sounder train, express bus, and almost every single car commute.

An $11 per-ride fare would fund about 35 percent of the annual cost, but Tacoma needs up to $53.4 million to get the operation going. That initial money would likely come from bonds, grants, and partnerships; Mello has called for another study to examine the whole situation further. But don’t expect a launch party anytime soon. The city of Tacoma would still have to pick a docking location (downtown? Point Defiance?).

Ferry routes used to cross Washington waters like a spiderweb, from Lake Washington steamers of the 1880s to the privately run mosquito fleet; our abundance of twenty-first century traffic makes those old ways look awfully tempting. Plus, Mello points out that “when a major disaster affects central Puget Sound”—like, say, the Big One—alternate regional routes will be vital. Okay, now we’re really sold.

In Your Commuter Dreams

Old and new Puget Sound ferry routes we’d love to see.


A charter directly to our state’s capital may just be the inspiration we need to up our participatory democracy game.

KirklandMadison Park

The route across Lake Washington dates back to the 1800s but dissolved with the advent of floating bridges. With traffic and tolls now bogging those down, maybe it’s time for some retro commutes.


Imagine a weekend trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, Richland dim sum, and favorable exchange-rate shopping without ever touching I-5 or its border-crossing lines.

Lake UnionBallard

It could double revenue by running in the wee hours, hawking greasy fries and last-call beers as a party barge home from Ballard’s bars.

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