Disappointment with Water Taxi

When faced with great success, the county has put on the brakes in encouraging low carbon commutes.

The King County Water Taxi (KCWT) recently released a new policy which will bar several kinds of cargo bikes and prohibit the loading of more than 26 bicycles. KCWT notes that the bicycle ridership has increased dramatically, with overfull boats and customers using bikes to bring children and cargo into Seattle.

I would have thought that KCWT would have patted themselves on the back — congratulations are in order for improving sustainable commuting for all types of individuals (and families). But, instead, when faced with great success, the county has put on the brakes in encouraging low carbon commutes. Instead of trying to come up with new mechanisms to keep the good momentum, such as loading even more bicycles onto the water taxi (front deck?) or adding more water taxi sailings, they have decided that they should ban certain cargo bikes and enforce strict limits on the number of bicycles brought onto the boat.

The stated reason is, as so often, “safety.” No one objects to maintaining a safe commute, but in 2019, with climate change effects surrounding us and worse coming every day, we must be more creative. We must refocus our efforts on encouraging low-carbon commutes. That means more bikes, more e-bikes, more cargo bikes, and more families bringing children into the city via water taxi (rather than driving a car onto WSF). The policy imposed by KCWT will depress bicycle ridership if riders are uncertain they will be able to return to the island. It will force families and commuters with cargo bikes back toward cars.

Our society must become less carbon intensive if we have any hope of mitigating the effects of climate change; I am terrified to think that KCWT and Vashon Island, with sea level change and forest fires at our literal doorstep, would impose a policy which will depress bicycle ridership and encourage families back into cars. The safety of our island, our society, perhaps our entire civilization depends on the decisions we make today.

—Jesse Dungan




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