Puget Sound Passenger-Only Ferry Study finalized

Study submitted to the Legislature

PSRC has finalized its feasibility study of passenger-only ferry service across 12 counties in Western Washington.

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.

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

Puget Sound

  • 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.
Next Steps
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.