City Council receives results of Tacoma fast ferry feasibility study

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Depending on the landing site chosen, expected travel time would be between 43 and 55 minutes, making this a competitive transit option particularly during peak commuting hours. Fares are estimated to be approximately $11 one way. Average weekday boardings are estimated at 1,800 to 2,150 by the year 2040. PHOTO COURTESY OF WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/TACOMAFERRY

Tacoma City Council has received the results of the Tacoma Fast Ferry Feasibility Study funded in conjunction with the Port of Tacoma and Pierce Transit.

Seeing the success of the Bremerton Fast Ferry earlier this year, at-large council member Ryan Mello led the charge to begin a feasibility study to examine the possibility of passenger-only ferry service from Tacoma to Seattle. As the region grows, and congestion continues to be a challenge, exploring diverse modes of transportation to move residents between Seattle and Tacoma would provide an attractive alternative to freeways that are often at or beyond capacity, and offer more options for people to get to where they need to go.

The feasibility study examined estimated operating and capital costs, as well as possible routes and landing sites, along with estimates of ridership and cost.

Depending on the landing site chosen, expected travel time would be between 43 and 55 minutes, making this a competitive transit option particularly during peak commuting hours. Fares are estimated to be approximately $11 one way. Average weekday boardings are estimated at 1,800 to 2,150 by the year 2040.
With the cost to establish a ferry terminal ranging from $500,000 to just over $3 million (depending on location chosen), as well as the cost to acquire the vessels (estimated between $10 million and $17 million each depending on vessel size), the capital costs are significant, and funds for implementation have yet to be identified. However, estimates on the percentage of costs that would be recovered through fares is only somewhat lower than other modes such as buses. For context, the cost of WSDOT’s I-5 – SR 16 Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program is $1.5 billion.

“I am pleased that we took the time to look at the data and that initial indications are that passenger-only ferry service between Tacoma and Seattle is feasible,” said Mello. “We still have a lot of work to do and details to flesh out, but I appreciate all the hard work our partners have undertaken to explore this option in a fiscally responsible manner. I am very excited at the possibility of adding another mode of transportation to the options available to residents, particularly one that gives people options other than sitting in traffic.”

“This is as much an economic driver for Tacoma as it is a way to be resilient in the face of major emergencies and massive growth pressures for our region,” Mello continued. “This is as much about getting people to Tacoma to work, shop and play as it is getting people to other points north. Also, when a major disaster affects central Puget Sound affecting our current roadways and bridges, having other modes of transportation will be essential to keeping our economy moving.”

Next steps include updating a Puget Sound-wide Passenger Only Ferry Study that will include detailed business planning for the Tacoma – Seattle route to include stakeholder engagement, financing strategies, refined costs, and detailed route information. Financing for this study is requested in the 2019 State Transportation Budget.

View the full feasibility study at http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/pds/fastferrystudyresults.pdf.

A Facebook page has been created to advocate and lobby local government to take steps toward getting a Tacoma-Seattle fast foot ferry. Visit and like www.facebook.com/TacomaFerry.

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