By Walt Elliot / June 2017

Fare policy changes | FerryFare

The proposed fare increases for this October are 2.9 percent for vehicles and 2.5 percent for passengers. Next year, they will be 2.5 percent for cars and 2.1 percent for passengers.

Annual fare increases of 2.5 percent are built by the Legislature into their budget. So why the 2.9 percent increase?

The basic rule for fares is that cars pay for the space they use. The small-car discount puts their fares below that. The difference was made up by an overcharge for big trucks and campers. This overcharge has been rolled back and 0.4 percent has been added.

Other fare policy changes include:

  • Discount fares available for school bus trips, $1 for a busload, will also be available for home-school trips. Car/driver and adult passengers still pay the full fare. Arrangements for school groups need to be made 72 hours ahead.
  • Bicycles towing trailers and kayaks will be charged a “baggage stowage fee” ($4.30/$5.85 in the summer).
  • Electric bikes that are required to have a license plate will be charged as motorcycles.
  • Multi-ridn e card fares may not be commercially resold.

The Transportation Commission will be taking public comment on these fare proposals in June and July. Check the commission’s website for details.

‘Keep clam’

Yippee … the Coast Guard’s requiring ferries to have enough life rafts for all the passengers.

Most of us assumed there were enough rafts for all of a Jumbo ferry’s 2,000-plus passengers. Nope. This may bring visions of a scene in “Titanic” where Leonard DiCaprio gives up his space so that Kate Winslet can survive. Actually, there’s a better plan. Read on.

In an emergency, the second boat on the run will scoot over to the stricken boat to rescue passengers aboard by towing life rafts back and forth. Our Jumbos carry four 150-person rafts. So if the boat is full with 200 cars, and they average of 1.6 passengers per car, that leaves room in the rafts for 280 walk-ons and crew. That would be a lot of walk-ons for Kingston-Edmonds.

When we’re down to a single boat, passengers are limited to the life raft capacity of 600. As single-boat operations happen late at night, this hasn’t been a problem. Bainbridge and Bremerton can be another story. Recall when the Bremerton boat left hundreds of Seahawks’ fans on the dock after a pre-season game?

While there are lifejackets for all of the passengers, in Puget Sound’s frigid water we’re all gonners in one to three hours. Former Rep. Mike Lowry tried, unsuccessfully, to get Congress to require Washington’s ferries to carry full life rafts. This issue has remained contentious ever since. Former WSF safety manager Tom Gowdy claimed that, in a situation where passengers would have to go into the water, “At least 10 percent would die in the first five minutes.” Eeek! After several years of study, the Coast Guard agreed that, in some situations, relying on a second boat “may be inadequate to effectively respond for the safety of all passengers and crew.”

WSF’s plan is to add eight rafts to the Jumbos, bringing their raft capacity up to 1,800. That should more than cover any loads here at Kingston. At times, however, Bainbridge may be turning passengers away. To help, electronic passenger counting systems will be implemented in Seattle, Bremerton, Bainbridge, and Anacortes.

It will take $5 million and 2½ years to put enough rafts in all the boats because of the lead time for ordering rafts and the availability of ferries for the conversion. Until the fleet gets upgraded, loading limits will be the same as they are today.

Your buoyant Ferry Advisory Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Mondays at the Village Green.

— Walt Elliott is chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee and a member of the Kingston Port Commission. Contact him at elliottmoore@comcast.net.