Puget Sound passenger-only ferry study completed

Written by Marine Log Staff
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Kitsap Transit fast ferry boats in Kingston. [Image: Puget Sound Regional Council]

The Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) has finalized its feasibility study of passenger-only ferry service across 12 counties in Western Washington.

The PSRC is a metropolitan planning organization that develops policies and makes decisions about transportation planning, economic development, and growth management throughout the four-county Seattle metropolitan area surrounding Puget Sound.

The Washington State Legislature commissioned the study, directing PSRC to examine opportunities to expand passenger-only ferry service on Puget Sound, Lake Union and Lake Washington.

The year-long study reviewed potential routes and terminals, ridership demand, costs and use of alternative fuels, and electrification of the ferry fleet.


  • On some routes, passenger-only ferry service would offer advantages over land-based transportation, including more direct connections and potentially faster service than comparable modes.
  • Ferry service would strengthen the transportation resiliency of the region for both scheduled travel and response/recovery in an emergency event such as an earthquake.
  • The marine operating environment presents unique planning considerations, including tribal treaty rights, confined waterways, sensitive habitat and marine mammal protection.
  • There is a potentially large number of routes with a destination in Seattle. Work will need to be done to plan for Seattle terminal(s) with capacity to meet demand, whether on Puget Sound or any of the lake routes.
  • Electrification potential of passenger ferries will continue to improve over time, with leaps being made in low and zero emissions technologies every year.


The study reviewed 45 potential routes and conducted a three-step evaluation process to identify seven routes for more detailed assessment:

  • Tacoma – Seattle
  • Bellingham – Friday Harbor
  • Whidbey Island – Everett
  • Lake Washington – Lake Union
  • Kenmore – University of Washington
  • Kirkland – University of Washington
  • Renton – University of Washington
  • Renton – South Lake Union

The evaluation looked at potential operational costs, site-specific conditions, electrification potential and other elements.


The Puget Sound Passenger-Only Ferry Study is a conceptual feasibility study. Service providers such as transit agencies, local governments, and private companies can use the information in the study as a springboard for continued work to develop potential service. This work would include business plan development, identification of funding sources, community outreach, environmental planning, and intergovernmental coordination.

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