Reader Opinion

Maybe it's time again to talk about ferry service from the Port of Olympia's dock


After reading the December 13 story in The JOLT titled, "Port of Olympia to reimburse developer for road improvements in Tumwater if lease agreement is finalized," and noting that nearby tenants such as Industrial Wood Products that uses trucks along the road to transport lumber would also benefit, I thought how nice.

But I also thought that maybe it was time to interject a new idea into the mix! Visualize this: A ferry terminal at the Port of Olympia, transporting the citizens of South Puget Sound to places that can only be reached on Interstate I-5 by driving polluting cars to Seattle, Bellingham, Vancouver and other far away places!

Think of the travel benefit to visitors from Oregon and California who would benefit by getting on ferries northbound from Olympia.  What a gift to the highways through Seattle and places beyond. What about it?

Let's help meet the proposed carbon footprint! Solve our South Sound isolation and invite the rest of Puget Sound to visit the beauty here in the South, the beautiful State Capital and the Festivals we offer.

Doesn't that sound great?

          ~ Sally McKirgan, Olympia 

The opinions expressed above are those of the writer and not necessarily those of  The JOLT's staff or board of directors.  You're free to post your response, below.  Otherwise, if you have something to say about a topic of interest to Thurston County residents, send it to us and we’ll most likely publish it. See the Contribute your news button at the top of every page. 


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  • WillStuivenga

    This is a WONDERFUL idea and something I've discussed with others in my circle in the past. It's exactly the forward-thinking kind of vision we need and which could substantially improve the situation we're in now, forced to rely on the I-5 bottleneck that so imperfectly links us with the major cities to the north.

    Thursday, December 28, 2023 Report this

  • BobJacobs

    This is a nice idea. It has been analyzed in the past and found cost-prohibitive. I'd be in favor of an updated analysis, but only if a very inexpensive "first cut" study could be done before any decision to do a full analysis. It is probably still not financially feasible.

    Bob Jacobs

    Thursday, December 28, 2023 Report this

  • jimlazar

    Boats are frightfully expensive to operate compared with buses.

    Kitsap Transit operates a passenger ferry to Seattle from Bremerton. The fare is $5, but the cost, mostly paid by taxpayers, is about $20 per rider.

    Yes, a ferry would be a lovely way to spend a few hours. But even a fast ferry would take 3 hours to get to Seattle, compared with 90 minutes on the Amtrak (now 7 trips daily).

    You can take Intercity Transit to Tacoma for free, and then Sound Transit from there to SeaTac, Seattle, Bellevue, and beyond for a dollar (senior) or a few dollars (others).

    Ferries run on diesel fuel. They pollute more than buses, more than trains, and certainly more than an electric car. Yes, Norway is building some electric ferries. And the Washington State Ferry system is building some hybrids, which will pollute less.

    The fantasy is wonderful. The economics are lousy.

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • KarenM

    If a private operator can see this as a money making business, it could be a fun service. If the suggestion is to subsidize this with public funds I would rather see us subsidize transit service.

    One would need to use some form of additional transportation once you would arrive in Seattle unless you were simply there to visit the waterfront.

    Here is a link to the most recent Passenger Ferry Only study that was conducted for Puget Sound Regional Council. The Olympia to Seattle route did not make the cut for more detailed analysis. One reason that it did not move forward was a confined waterway on the route, which means the boat would need to slow down. There is not a time advantage for this route, there is a time loss compared to a car trip.

    Note that existing Kitsap passenger only ferry services were only recovering 26% of costs in 2019.

    Here is the PSRC page about the study

    Here is the study

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • HPressley

    I am an older woman and I no longer drive I-5 to Seattle or north. My family feels the same. Why they never extended Sound Transit south to Olympia is beyond me. We have taken the train to Seattle which was an enjoyable ride, but over-water would also be nice.

    We are also deprived of ferry rides. They are now beyond our range as well. A passenger-only ferry would work well for folks traveling north.

    Anything starting north of the Nisqually would be impossible because of the traffic congestion. I hope I can live long enough to see this plan come to fruition!

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • waltjorgensen

    On December 31, 1990, 33 years ago, Case Existological Laboratories prepared a 112-page report for the Washington Public Ports Association, titled THE MOSQUITO FLEET FEASIBILITY STUDY.  I suggest a reading of that document before dismissing the prospect of restoring passenger ferry service to the southern Salish Sea.  The early 1990's also ushered into office some new Port of Olympia Commissioners who promptly ignored the report and placed it on the shelf.  I doubt they could find it today.  I have a copy.

    Walter R. Jorgensen

    Tumwater, WA 98501-3526

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • JohnGear

    Anyone looking for alternatives to our broken and destructive automobile network is to be commended, but don’t overlook the working alternative we already enjoy and that should be further developed, the Amtrak Cascades.

    Recently, Amtrak has boosted the schedule between Seattle and Portland and there are now 7 trips a day from Oly to Seattle’s King St. Station that will take you there for less than the cost of driving, with far less stress on you and with zero added pollution from the transit trip. It’s a very pleasant way to get to Seattle and easy to access all the transit options in town from there. Will get you there in about half the time of a ferry, and puts you right where you can easily connect to other modes.

    Amtrak Cascades Train Icon

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    DEPARTS 8:40 a. 1h 30m

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    DEPARTS 10:15 a

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    504 Amtrak Cascades

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    508 Amtrak Cascades

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    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • JnNwmn

    A ferry to the Seattle waterfront from Memorial Day to Labor Day seems the most cost effective. Maybe the Port of Seattle could chip in to bring more tourists to Seattle. Also you could get the cruise ships to help finance the operation since as of now Seattle is the largest cruise terminal in the US for the number or passengers served.

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • olyhiker

    Not a good idea. We have so much trouble keeping ferries going and the crew is not always there. Sounds like a waste of money to me.

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • wildnature

    As a senior it's getting harder and harder for me to drive from Oly to Bellingham to see my grandchildren. And driving in the dark is getting out of the question. Their parents are always too busy to drive here. I'm missing their childhood. A smaller electric passenger ferry would be a great way to go and I could be picked up on the other end. Right now the gas for my compact car is over $50 round trip. But I wouldn't want to displace anybody if a ferry terminal here would impinge on homes. Or I'd love to take Amtrak if they'd get me there just as fast as a car. Thanks for the article. It inspires me with the idea to check out the Amtrak option.

    Jean Shaffer

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • Somney

    Imagine we take the ferry, make it larger, faster and more economical by having it travel by land…maybe on a rail, of course I’m describing a train.

    Friday, December 29, 2023 Report this

  • pacificm

    Excellent idea. In the years past traveling on I-5 to Seattle could be challenging. Now, for me and most others I talk to it is extremely frustrating and life threatening. It has stopped our family from going to Seattle. The ferry is a no brainer.

    It could provide so much benefit and revenue for so many. The way I see it is that the primary obstacle is funding. The idea has been floated (excuse the pun) in the state legislature in the past. When it was proposed I wrote the legislature in support of the bill and never heard back. As we know, "good. ideas" often don't get too far on their own. They need good political backing from groups that are savvy in the ways of bill passage. Perhaps more discussion regarding this could generate ideas and a plan that would offer progress. After all, this is the state Capitol and Seattle is the regional commercial center.

    Thanks so much for bringing this up!

    Saturday, December 30, 2023 Report this

  • GardenGal27

    I love the idea however, our WA State ferry system is struggling. Staffing issues, people are not going to school and getting licensed, boats are expensive. But hating the I-5 drive from Olympia to Seattle, I would consider. Now, we drive to Bremerton and take the ferry to Seattle. Schedules are sometimes unreliable due to mechanical breakdowns and staffing issues however.

    Saturday, December 30, 2023 Report this

  • TurdFerguson

    A high speed electric passenger ferry from Seattle to Olympia, along with the conversion of the "marine terminal" to a public market/museum and arts district would be brilliant. This idea was illustrated in a op-ed on this site by Joe Illing (sorry to have lost him) back in June of last year:,10984?

    Using the land that is now an under-utilized outdated sea port to create a public space along the lines of Granville Island in BC or Djurgarden in Stockholm and connecting it to the Seattle waterfront by high speed ferry would bring economic and social rewards far beyond what the current utilization brings.

    Tuesday, January 2 Report this