The Water Taxi Grows Up

More official, a little less charming.

Last year, as a crowded field of King County Council candidates rounded the primary's backstretch, it seemed as though the West Seattle Water Taxi might die a toddler. But then West Seattleite Dow Constantine won, and the vessel was all but assured a long, happy life. Many would have been content with the Water Taxi remaining a touristy little boat with plastic deck chairs, parked outside the Pier 55 Red Robin, staffed on contract by Argosy, and consistently entertaining the notion of serving seven-ounce beers. But oh, no, the 2010 Water Taxi is more—so much more—than that. With a bigger, badder-ass vessel and a move south along the downtown shore, our little Water Taxi's all grown up. The new boat, a catamaran called the Rachel Marie, feels like a two-tiered mini-version of Vancouver, B.C.'s SeaBus. This notion is reinforced by the reinforcement of the wobbly dock at Seacrest Park on the Alki side, as well as the Water Taxi's relocated slip down by the Vashon foot ferry in the actual ferry terminal, nearer to where the big Bremerton and Bainbridge boats roost. Staffed by actual county employees, one of whom is a ringer for the actor Clifton Collins, the new vessel feels more like public transit—which should ultimately be a very good thing (especially if and when a bus shuttle down Delridge to Roxbury is added to get West Seattle's less-moneyed residents to and from the dock). With air conditioning and heat, the new boat's undoubtedly more suited to Seattle's unpredictable weather; it's the marine equivalent of Safeco Field and its retractable roof. (Speaking of Safeco, the Water Taxi's move south will cut about five minutes off the walk to the dock for baseball fans racing to make the last sail at 10:30 p.m.). Yet the shrunken outdoor seating area is sort of a bummer, and it's hard not to miss the littler boat with the charmingly informal crew. For 12 to 24 minutes each day, you could pretend to be a tourist in your own town at the flash of a bus pass. The Water Taxi served as an ongoing reminder of Seattle's uniqueness—a lift of the spirits in the morning, a romantic float home at night. The new boat, for all its virtues, lacks a little kid's sense of wonder, and it's tough—albeit equally gratifying—to watch her come into her own.

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