Community Water Taxi is advancing

A group of enthusiastic islanders is making positive changes in the wake of ferry service disruptions.

Since August, the Community Water Taxi has been offering emergency and on-call inter-island boat service within San Juan County. It is entirely separate from Washington State Ferries and is intended to be implemented when the regular inter-island ferry has been canceled.

The group is run by Ed Andrews, Community Liaison and Public Relations; Tom Bridge, USCG Captain and owner of Island Water Taxi and Rupali Barge; Carey Eskridge, Executive Director of the Orcas Chamber of Commerce; Justin Paulsen, Community Advocate and Sandy Playa, EV Land Transportation Liaison.

In the long term, Community Water Taxi hopes to have a network of local captains on call to supplement WSF’s schedule. Members are looking at securing funding from the county and state and currently exploring all funding models.

“We are well-defined in what we are planning to do. We’d like to meet the objective of getting our citizens around in the community. This is in response to WSF admitting and acknowledging there will not be new boats any time soon,” said Bridges, who is both on the committee and provides inter-island transport.

Bridges’ boat, based on Crane Island, currently has a three-person minimum and a six-person maximum; exceptions are made for those needing transport to a medical appointment or a legal proceeding. During the San Juan County Fair this past August, Bridges made multiple trips to bring more than 60 people home to Lopez, Orcas and Shaw when the inter-island ferry was canceled.

The suggested donation is $40. Bridges says some riders have paid nothing while others have paid more. Ultimately, the group’s goal is to make this service a subsidized fare.

“Tom and Justin just testified at the House Transportation Committee budget hearing. Government moves at a certain speed that requires a little bit of patience. We are updating them and keeping the conversation going,” Andrews said. “It’s a very complex problem. We have ideas about the solution, but it’s evolving and changing.”

Bridges met with Senator Lovelett last week and said it was a positive conversation.

“She was very enthusiastic and is trying to find shortcuts to the standard process for the government and private partnership,” he said. “We’re trying from every angle we can think of to get the government involved.”

Community Water Taxi has released a survey to gather more data about community needs. Based on the responses, outside research, and on-the-water work, the group is launching a trial-run, daily water taxi service in March. To take the survey in English, visit For the Spanish version, go to:

“We are a community of islands yet what’s happening with WSF is breaking that community. We are a series of isolated islands now,” Andrews said. “We understand that a project of this nature is laden with pitfalls, but we also believe that without starting this effort, our island community connections will continue to erode.”

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