Vacationers and excursionists disembark on a pier from the steamer ”Vashon” at Three Tree Point, circa 1910.

Way back in the “really old days” (the late 1800s up until around the early 1950s), a “Mosquito Fleet” of 40 or so passenger-only boats traversed Puget Sound, ferrying passengers to and from mostly now long-gone community docks at Three Tree Point (pictured above), Des Moines, Redondo, Woodmont, Vashon and many others.

This week, a new feasibility study of passenger-only ferry service – a new Mosquito Fleet? – across 12 counties in Western Washington was released by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC).

You can view the study here: https://www.psrc.org/passenger-ferry-study.

The Washington State Legislature commissioned the study, directing PSRC to examine opportunities to expand passenger-only ferry service on Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington.

The year-long study reviewed potential routes and terminals, ridership demand, costs and use of alternative fuels, and electrification of the ferry fleet.

Below is a draft map of the possible routes/terminals; note that the only apparent stops in South King County are in Des Moines, Renton and Federal Way:

A new 'Mosquito Fleet'? Puget Sound Regional Council releases Passenger-Only Ferry Study 1

Findings:

    • On some routes, passenger-only ferry service would offer advantages over land-based transportation, including more direct connections and potentially faster service than comparable modes.
    • Ferry service would strengthen the transportation resiliency of the region for both scheduled travel and response/recovery in an emergency event such as an earthquake.
    • The marine operating environment presents unique planning considerations, including tribal treaty rights, confined waterways, sensitive habitat and marine mammal protection.
    • There is a potentially large number of routes with a destination in Seattle. Work will need to be done to plan for Seattle terminal(s) with capacity to meet demand, whether on Puget Sound or any of the lake routes.
    • Electrification potential of passenger ferries will continue to improve over time, with leaps being made in low and zero emissions technologies every year.

Route Profiles:
The study reviewed 45 potential routes and conducted a three-step evaluation process to identify seven routes for more detailed assessment:

Puget Sound

    • Tacoma – Seattle
    • Bellingham – Friday Harbor
    • Whidbey Island – Everett

Lake Washington & Lake Union

    • Kenmore – University of Washington
    • Kirkland – University of Washington
    • Renton – University of Washington
    • Renton – South Lake Union

The evaluation looked at potential operational costs, site-specific conditions, electrification potential and other elements.

Next Steps
The Puget Sound Passenger-Only Ferry Study is a conceptual feasibility study.  Service providers such as transit agencies, local governments, and private companies can use the information in the study as a springboard for continued work to develop potential service. This work would include business plan development, identification of funding sources, community outreach, environmental planning, and intergovernmental coordination.

About the Puget Sound Regional Council
PSRC coordinates regional growth, transportation and economic development planning within King, Pierce, Snohomish and Kitsap counties. The Council has nearly 100 members, including all four counties, cities and towns, ports, state and local transportation agencies and tribal governments within the region.