The Plot to Sink the Water Taxi

Political pirates want to beach the new mosquito fleet before it gets started.

Last week, King County Executive candidate Ross Hunter ratcheted up his attack on the county's prospective mosquito fleet by claiming it would be more cost-effective to buy each Vashon and West Seattle foot-ferry passenger a Bayliner than continue to fund the fledgling King County Ferry District.Hunter's been very clear about his intent to sink the Downtown–West Seattle Water Taxi if elected. "I think that adding the West Seattle foot ferry is a very expensive way to make one of the most expensive transit agencies in the country more expensive," he explains. "Expanding it to Lake Washington would be even worse. I'm trying to get the county to stick to its knitting and provide a great bus system."Fred Jarrett, who like Hunter is a centrist state legislator from the Eastside running to fill Ron Sims' shoes, has also expressed his opposition to the county's ferry district, and columnist Danny Westneat piled on with an anti-ferry screed of his own in The Seattle Times last week. All of which makes the pleasant little Sightseer—the Argosy boat used on the West Seattle run—the most unexpected target of political vitriol this campaign season. But really, it all smacks of a very calculated attack on Democratic frontrunner and West Seattle resident Dow Constantine, for whom the vessel is a virtual floating advertisement. (While he's ahead of his fellow Dems in the polls, Constantine trails right-leaning Susan Hutchison by a good margin.)"Ross Hunter and Fred Jarrett voted three times each in Olympia to create the county ferry district, because they were managing the state budget so poorly that the state had to slough off its basic responsibilities onto King County," says Constantine campaign spokesperson Sandeep Kaushik. "Senator Patty Murray also understands the value of the Water Taxi. [Last week] she got $2 million in federal funds for the Water Taxi, which has seen ridership rise 30 percent a year and just set a new record for ridership last month.""Ross is using voodoo math to come up with these numbers—mixing up both capital costs and operating costs," adds Kaushik. "By Ross' method of calculation, it would probably be cheaper to get rid of Metro bus service and buy everyone a Bentley. The truth is that the Water Taxi recovers about twice as much in operating expenses from the fare box as Metro does from buses."

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