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  • Writer's pictureGretchen Schmidt

New foot ferry makes the trip to downtown Seattle in 26 minutes

March 29, 2021 at 6:00 am Updated March 29, 2021 at 12:09 pm

The Kitsap Transit’s fast ferry Enetai does not have its own slip and must share the one docking position with WSF at Southworth. Here it arrives for the second of four inaugural sailings to Elliott Bay and back to Southworth on Saturday. They were free to the public and carried 325 people and two bicycles over the four sailings. (Alan Berner / The Seattle Times)

By Mike Lindblom Seattle Times staff reporter

Kitsap Transit begins service on its third fast-ferry route Monday morning, a 26-minute direct passenger-only trip between Southworth and downtown Seattle.

The255-seat vessel Enetai made four exhibition trips Saturday across Puget Sound into Elliott Bay, where a total of 325 passengers rode at speeds reaching 42 mph. It’s faster than riding a state ferry to Fauntleroy, followed by a bus or car trip across West Seattle into downtown.

“It stayed smooth and level, it didn’t list side-to-side. I’m pretty excited this vessel will be on the route,” said Joel Sparrow, a longtime ferry commuter from Southworth to Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

Sparrow predicts the direct trip will save an hour each way for hundreds of people. Pre-COVID-19, many combined park-and-rides with a state ferry to Vashon, followed by a King County walk-on ferry from Vashon to downtown, he said.

The Enetai, built by Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Whidbey Island at a cost of $12.5 million, is funded by local sales taxes, which also support passenger ferries from Bremerton and Kingston to Seattle.

The Southworth ferry will make eight scheduled trips each direction per weekday, with fares of $2 to Seattle and $10 back to Southworth — but free during April. An estimated 140,000 passengers per year are predicted to ride, and bus service is being increased to the dock, Kitsap transit spokesperson Sanjay Bhatt said.

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