Posts Tagged ‘King County Water Taxi’

I have been riding the Water Taxi for seven years now – but not that regularly. It has mainly been a summertime operation, but this year funding was found to keep it running through the winter, albeit for weekday commuter schedule only.

Lately, in the morning on the bus to work, I see the vessel docking on the West Seattle side, and have noticed the garlands and lights hanging in the windows of the cabin. This morning it looked so inviting, that I decided to come home on it.

It was actually my first ride in winter darkness. There were only 14 of us on the boat – a far cry from the noisy crowds of summer. I didn’t pull out my iPhone or e-reader – just sat and enjoyed the hum of the engine and the feeling of sailing across Elliot Bay – enjoying the lights of the Port of Seattle and remembering all the times I’ve made that trip – in happy chapters – and in not-so-happy chapters. I have explored every emotion on that boat.

I bypassed my usual latte downtown in favor of dallying a while at Alki, where I doodled while enjoying an old-time-radio Christmas suspense play, and then read a few chapters of Mark Twain’s “The Gilded Age” – another blast from the past that sheds much light on our present.

On the way home, I enjoyed the Christmas lights of the neigborhood. I managed to get a somewhat decent picture of one display, that is not the most impressive – but is by far the cutest – with penguins in santa hats and a lawn flamingo. Always makes me smile:)

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Relaxation came effortlessly this afternoon, despite a very hectic work day.

I rode a bus into downtown Seattle – something I haven’t done lately as I tend to favor the Link light rail. But I decided to go home to West Seattle on the Water Taxi, and the bus goes somewhat closer to the dock. A co-worker was on the bus also and we enjoyed a chat – a chat that continued outside the Ferry Terminal in a rather windy spot. Wind usually annoys me, but today it didn’t. Perhaps I needed it.

We parted company and I went down to Pier 50 where I sat in the pleasant equinox sunshine waiting to board the boat. I have discovered that I cannot read on the Water Taxi, even when it is docked, without feeling queasy after just a minute or two. So I listen to a podcast.

Once underway, I found myself feeling so pleasantly relaxed – almost in a trance state – a state that was not broken when I walked off the boat into another field of gusty wind. I walked all the way to Alki, feeling as though I could doze off at any moment – even though I was walking briskly with great energy.

A friend of mine who works on the port waterfront said the harbor seals had been putting on a display of synchronized swimming!

There must have been something special blowing in the wind today – along with that beautiful full equinox moon:)

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There is nothing like the first mild Friday evening in April when the Mariners have an early evening game. By August I will be tired of baseball traffic disrupting my travel home. But not in April. Seattle’s waterfront has come back to life. There is heavy traffic on the lower deck of the Viaduct headed towards the stadium. Tourists are filling the sidewalks, looking rather ready to sit down after walking all day. I could have made it to the 5:20 Water Taxi, but really felt like hanging around downtown a little longer, taking it all in. On evenings like this I feel very happy and lucky to live in Seattle.

Numerous construction projects are about to complicate my evening commute and will do so for the next 18 months. I am going to try to keep this relaxed mood for as long as possible.

I am lucky – almost uniquely so amongst the people I know – in that I rarely have a reason to hurry. I was done with school years ago. I have no commitments outside of work. And there is no one waiting at home for me other than my cat. I have time to sit here a while and enjoy the scene.

I feel bad for the busy people. But then, I was one of them once.

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If you have read a few of my posts, you will have probably ascertained that I am something of a transit geek. Not only can I happily while away time watching buses and trains in Seattle’s Transit Tunnel, or ride the Link Light Rail to the airport just for the fun of it, I even watch transit footage on YouTube!

Yesterday was a Saturday, and I had nothing major to do, so I set off on one of my little excursions. My intended destination was Discovery Park, with a stop for latte and scone somewhere along the way. I ended up in SODO for the latte and scone, after which I headed out, nicely refreshed, to get a bus downtown. It was very windy and I was wishing I had put on another layer under my jacket.

By the time we were in the Ride Free area, the bus was pretty full and the people around me were speaking any language but English. That has never bothered me, perhaps because I once lived in London, but it sure irked a homeless guy who got on the bus in Pioneer Square and proceeded to hurl verbal abuse at a couple of older guys speaking Spanish. Luckily, they did not seem to understand English and they easily ignored him. Hmmm. Urban Bliss isn’t always so blissful. Oh well, at least no one was hurt.

By the time I got off the bus, that Venti latte had worked its way through my system and I decided to go into Westlake Center and use the restroom before getting on a #33. This is another principle of Urban Bliss – know where easy-access restrooms are so that you don’t get caught short.

I came out of the restroom to notice the South Lake Union Trolley sitting at its Westlake Terminal. I have never ridden the SLUT, and it was just too windy to enjoy Discovery Park, so I changed the plan and got on the SLUT instead.

I rode to the end of the line – and I did not see one interesting thing along the way. And it was annoying also. Unlike the Link, which runs in its own right-of-way, the SLUT shares streets with other traffic, and has to keep stopping. Each time it moves, the driver has to ring a bell. And on arrival at the end if the line, at the south end af Lake Union, there is not much to greet you. There are some restaurants, but the setting is very sterile. This part of Seattle has been only recently developed and is dominated by medical research facilities. There are numerous “granite counter-top” condo developments and high-rises. South Lake Union is the product of some great “vision”, something I am always suspicious of. Neighborhoods are best left to evolve naturally, within the confines of sane urban development – not “planned”.

Perhaps I may have missed something. There might have been a charming little neighborhood a block or two away, with a great bakery and some interesting small businesses. But I did not feel inspired to explore, and so went back downtown on the #70 bus.

I assume the SLUT is part of that South Lake Union vision. But I cannot see what purpose it might serve, although some commuters might use it on weekdays. However, the area is so well served by buses, another mode of transit seems a bit redundant, especially when it adds neither speed nor convenience.

Two other recent additions to Seattle’s transit options are also viewed with skeptism. One is the recently opened Link Light Rail operated by Sound Transit. Ridership is not impressive, but I am confident that will change over time. At least the Link goes somewhere people actually go (it runs between downtown Seattle and Seatac Airport) and the next leg will go up through Capital Hill to the University of Washington. In 20 years time, we will probably be glad we built it when we did.

The other “boondoggle” is the King County Water Taxi service from Pier 50 to West Seattle. For the last few years, it was operated by Argosy Cruises, making it something of a heavily subsidized pleasure trip. But it did get tourists over to West Seattle to spend money (which is why most local businesses support it), and it proved to be a useful transit option between downtown and West Seattle. It is now being operated as a bonafide ferry service, and has a more utilitarian feel to it – much to the dismay of a few people who miss their heavily subsidized pleasure trip. I am just happy it exists. On a summer evening when the Mariners are playing and traffic is crawling on First Ave and the Viaduct, it is nice to have an alternative way home.

I believe that over the next decade or so, the Link and Water Taxi services will become established elements of transit in Seattle that people take for granted and no longer talk about.

But I cannot really see that happening with the SLUT.

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