95 years later, Edmonds ferries still going strong | History Files

By Tim Raetzloff | Aug 31, 2018

Edmonds is identified with the ferries that shuttle back and forth to Kingston, and a ferry is prominent in the city’s logo. No wonder – they’ve been a part of the Edmonds seascape for 95 years.

The first was appropriately named "City of Edmonds." It made its first crossing May 20, 1923. According to Historylink, City of Edmonds was owned by the Joyce brothers of Mukilteo, who obtained a license from Edmonds to lease a portion of the city dock for an automobile ferry to Kingston.

The service was to started four days earlier, but the new ferry wasn’t quite ready for the job.

Scheduled ferry service was three round trips each weekday and six round trips on Saturday and Sunday. That’s like now, with the run very popular on the weekend. Saturdays, the ferry line often reaches to Westgate.

The little ferry in 1923 was 65 feet long and could carry 12 to 14 cars and 76 to 150 passengers.

Ninety-five years later, the ferries have grown, and so has the traffic. More than 3 million passengers pass through Edmonds each year, according to WSDOT statistics.

The individual ferries are bigger, too. I expect that either the MV Puyallup, or MV Spokane, could carry the entire city of Edmonds and still load hundreds of passengers.

The Spokane is a Jumbo Class ferry. It weighs in at 4,859 tons. It is 440 feet long, has a beam of 87 feet, and draws 18 feet of water. Spokane can run at 18 knots, propelled by engines that produce 11,500 horsepower. Spokane can carry 188 cars and 2,000 passengers. Spokane was built in 1972 and rebuilt in 2004.

The Puyallup is even bigger.

Puyallup is a Jumbo II Class ferry. Puyallup weighs in at 6,184 tons. Puyallup is 460 feet long. It has a beam of 90 feet, and draws 17 feet, 3 inches. Puyallup produces 16,000 horsepower and can also reach a speed of 18 knots. It can carry 202 cars and 2,499 passengers.

Over the almost 100 years of ferry service, the cost has changed little by comparison to inflation. The Joyce brothers charged $1.50 per car and driver one-way, and 25 cents per passenger. Today the rate is $18.70 for car and driver, and $8.35 per passenger.

Old geezers like me get a reduced senior citizen rate.

I used the calculator at dollartimes.com to compare the old rate and the new rate. $1.50 in 1923 would be $21.88 today, so the car and driver rate is actually lower in inflation-adjusted terms. The passenger rate is a bit trickier. Twenty-five cents in 1923 would be $3.65 now. But passengers pay only one way today and ride the other direction free. That puts the present rate only a little more expensive than the 1923 rate.

I learned a bit of other trivia while researching this article. When Washington State bought the ferry system from Black Ball lines in 1951, it was expected that the state would only run the system for a limited time.

There would be bridges built to replace the ferries. It has been 67 years, and those bridges don’t yet exist. I remember seeing proposals years ago, but I honestly don’t know how bridges of that size could be built across Puget Sound.

Maybe some time in the future the bridges will be built. Until then we will rely on our ferries to carry us to Kingston.



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