Ferries on Lake Washington? It could happen — again
by Leslie Helm
Lake Washington is a magnificent community asset, but it’s a barrier where traffic is concerned. Michael Christ has a solution. He’d like to reintroduce passenger ferries, which graced the region’s waterways from the 1850s to the 1930s.
Christ, the CEO of Seco Development, is betting heavily on Renton’s Southport mixed-use waterfront development. He pictures slow-moving barge-like ferries transporting 150 to 175 people and countless bicycles at a time. A trip between Renton and Seattle’s South Lake Union might take an hour, he says, but there would be Wi-Fi and a chance to get some work done.
“It would be so much more beautiful than driving,” says Christ. “It would be romantic.”
Skeptics — and there are plenty — say commuters prefer bus, light rail or car, adding that boats are expensive, and that there isn’t enough development along the lake to make the plan work.
Christ calls them shortsighted. The boats he envisions are energy efficient and cheap (less than $5 million for three boats circling the lake) and would connect with other public transportation.
Maybe King County Executive Dow Constantine, who backed the popular water taxi between West Seattle and downtown, will go for a new “Lake Link.” Sound far-fetched? Maybe not. The county has considered reviving an idea, raised and quashed when the Great Recession hit, of testing two passenger-ferry routes to the University of Washington — one from Kenmore and the other from Kirkland.
As Christ points out, big growth is projected for cities all around the lake. “You’re going to have 5 million people living around this lake,” he notes. “It’s just a question of time before this happens.”
LESLIE HELM is the executive editor of Seattle Business magazine.