Popular water taxi can now carry more passengers

The Melissa Ann can now carry 172 passengers. - Jim Evans photo
The Melissa Ann can now carry 172 passengers.
— image credit: Jim Evans photo

Vashon's water taxi, which often sails at capacity, leaving riders at the dock, can now carry about 20 more passengers each trip.

The King County Ferry District gained U.S. Coast Guard approval this week for the Melissa Ann, which carries passengers between Vashon and downtown Seattle, to carry 172 passengers, 22 more than it previously held. Its sister boat the Rachel Marie, which carries passengers between West Seattle and downtown, can also now carry 172.

“The increase in capacity is great news for our dedicated riders who at times have been left behind when the boat was full,” King County Councilmember Joe McDermott, chairman of the ferry district, said in a press release.

In the first six months of this year, the Melissa Ann had 96 at-capacity sailings, meaning all of its 150 seats were full, said Scott Davis, director of the county's marine division. That’s nearly double the number from the first six months a year ago, when the route experienced 57 full boats.

The 77-foot catamarans have always been large enough to carry more people, county officials say, but Coast Guard safety regulations require larger crews and other measures for them to do so.

The boats are now equipped with more life rafts and additional signage, according to a press release, and additional security measures have been put in place.

Councilmember Larry Gossett, vice chair of the ferry district, said in the press release that the Coast Guard approval process has been a long one and the announcement marked “the culmination of almost a year's worth of work by both the Ferry District and the Marine Division to accommodate the growing number of passengers using the water taxi as a part of their daily commute.”

Meanwhile, Christine Nelson, an Islander hired last spring to oversee the small ferry district, has stepped down just three months after taking the post.

Nelson had to leave the position in order to care for her ailing mother, who also lives on Vashon, said Michelle Allison, McDermott's legislative aide.

“Her mom is on-Island and needed to be cared for more than she can do having a full-time job in Seattle,” Allison said.

She said the county has yet to begin the search for a replacement and noted that the district has been without an administrator in the past.

“No decisions have been made on how to move forward yet,” she said.





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