You'll be able to hop on a ferry from West Seattle to downtown Seattle earlier this year than ever before. The Water Taxi sails into summer with a new name and logo on its earliest opening day yet, starting service this Sunday.

Formerly known as the West Seattle Water Taxi, the ferry this year has changed its name to the King County Water Taxi, with the service being taken over by the King County Ferry District.

On Sunday from noon to two o'clock, an opening day party takes place, with live music, refreshments and family activities, at the Seacrest Dock. The musical group "Once" will perform. Water Taxi rides will be free all day and riders will receive free Water Taxi buttons and squeeze toys.

West Seattle residents will still be able to take advantage of free shuttle rides to the ferry. The free shuttle van service has been split into two routes - with Route 773 serving the West Seattle Junction and Route 775 serving the Admiral District, Alki and Harbor Avenue. The shuttle will operate between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. on weekdays and between 8:45 a.m. and 7:15 p.m. on weekends.

The boat will accept the new ORCA fare cards, in addition to other transit passes.

Argosy Cruises will operate the Water Taxi service using the 250-passenger MV Sightseer. The boat will depart about every 40 minutes during commute hours and hourly during the middle of the day. Evening service will be offered on Friday and Saturday nights with the last sailings leaving Pier 55 at 10:30 p.m. and Seacrest Dock at 11 p.m. Evening service will also be offered for every Seattle Mariners home game, giving baseball fans a relaxing alternative to game-day gridlock.

The one-way fare for the King County Water Taxi is $3 for anyone over the age of 5. Passengers with a valid Metro transfer pay just $1. Also accepted for full fare are PugetPasses, FlexPasses, Metro Access Passes, UPasses, Vanpool Passes, Saturday/Sunday Day Passes, and Regional Reduced Fare Permits with a valid monthly or annual sticker. The 2009 Water Taxi season runs through Friday, Oct. 31