The results of the Tacoma Fast Ferry Feasibility Study are in. And according to the Tacoma City Council, passenger-only ferry service from Tacoma to Seattle is a possibility, albeit still a pretty far-off one.
“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 At-Large City Council Member Ryan 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.”
Mello advocated for the study, which was funded by the Port of Tacoma and Pierce Transit, after seeing the success of the Bremerton Fast Ferry launched last year.
Included in the results are estimated operating costs, possible routes and landing sites, and estimated ridership and ticket pricing.
Depending on the landing site, the study showed that travel time between the two cities could take between 43 and 55 minutes, a vast improvement over both car and bus commute times. According to a 2017 Washington State Department of Transportation report on congestion, the average trip between Tacoma and Seattle via car during peak times can take between 79 and 115 minutes. The average rush hour trip via bus can take up to 91 minutes.
Fast ferry fares are estimated at $11 one way, with approximately 1,800 to 2,150 weekday boardings by 2040.
Depending on location, the cost to build a terminal is estimated to be between $500,000 and a little over $3 million, plus another $10 million to $17 million to purchase the vessels. According to the study, the percentage of costs that could be regained through ticket sales is slightly lower than other modes of transportation, like buses.
“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.”
According to the city council, funding to update a Puget Sound-wide Passenger Only Ferry Study has been requested in next year’s state transportation budget. That study will take further steps toward investigating stakeholder engagement, financing strategies, detailed costs, and route information for a future Tacoma-Seattle fast ferry.
The full study results can be viewed here.