Transit leaders want to diversify Puget Sound ferry service, whether via public agencies or private companies. Here is what some of our readers think about the idea.

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Transit leaders met this month to brainstorm ways to build a regional water-taxi network, and numerous people contacted Traffic Lab to weigh in on the idea.

Among the proposals are a real-estate company’s plan to test first-of-its-kind service between Renton and Seattle on Lake Washington and a Tacoma City Council member’s push to launch a route to Seattle for an alternative to Interstate 5.

The ideas are only in the talking stage, but they ignited numerous responses from readers. The comments ranged from skepticism to nostalgia for the region’s 19th-century steamboats, the Mosquito Fleet.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Alaska Airlines, CenturyLink, Kemper Development Co., NHL Seattle, PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, Sabey Corp., Seattle Children’s hospital and Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

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Here are a few responses. Some have been edited for length and clarity.

Returning to old ways

“I think it’s a fantastic idea given the constrained geographies of this region. It will be interesting to see what comes to fruition in the face of unmitigated congestion, and whether we return to earlier modes of transportation, like ferries across Lake Washington to Mercer Island and the Eastside.

As with the Microsoft Connector, here is my greatest concern: Private efforts around transportation must work hand-in-hand with all public systems to enhance and bolster them. Transportation infrastructure is a public good and critical to public security. We need to protect it, keep it in good shape and be sure it serves everyone in the region. We’ve got to get out of our cars, fossil fuel or electrified.”

— Cathy Hillenbrand, Seattle

40-cent rides from Kirkland to Seattle

“I firmly believe that a modern-day Mosquito Fleet would ease our highway gridlock.

I was born in Kirkland in 1936. My dad was an engineer on the Lake Washington ferry, Leschi. As a family, we enjoyed a free pass on the ferry as foot passengers. But for the paying passengers, too, it was quick, cheap and reliable transportation from Kirkland to downtown Seattle.

Boarding the ferry at the Kirkland dock, it cost 40 cents for a 20-minute ride to Madison Park. The Seattle buses ran in conjunction with the ferry schedule. So, you step off the ferry, walk 150 feet up the dock to a waiting electric trolley, put your dime in the slot, and 15-20 minutes later, you would step off the bus at Third and Union — 40 minutes from Kirkland to downtown Seattle!”

— Joe Conner, Federal Way

Fast ferries are not the answer

“Having an additional HOV lane on I-5 would provide room for buses to make the trip from Lake Union to Renton in 20 minutes. It would also stimulate multiple riders per vehicle.

We cannot solve our transportation problem by having an additional mode that would be less efficient, and the thought of fast ferries crisscrossing the lake is horrible!”

— Jacques Buttin, Kent

Cheaper than building light rail

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“Build a fleet of six high-speed SWATH (Small-Waterplane-Area Twin Hull) type passenger-only ferries because they cause a substantially lesser wake than conventional hulls. Then, run them from Renton, Bellevue, Kirkland and Kenmore/Juanita to South Lake Union, with an intermediate stop at the University of Washington.

The ferry docks could be located at public parks and Metro transit stops, where passengers could connect with buses. The whole thing could be done for less than $1 million, substantially cheaper than light rail and all the other options.

As the Seattle area continues to grow, and with the limited road options available, it might well be worth another look.

I was lucky enough to be involved with building two SWATH-type vessels for the tourist industry — both of them would be suitable for both lake and sound service in Puget Sound. It could drastically reduce traffic congestion on I-405, I-5 and both Lake Washington bridges.”

— Harish Gidwani