A Washington ferry budget break down for 2015-16 | Ferry Fare

Budgets give us a glimpse into where WSF’s headed … that is if the Legislature agrees. Here’s an overview.

WSDOT’s 2015-16 budget

Budgets give us a glimpse into where WSF’s headed … that is if the Legislature agrees. Here’s an overview.


Expect 2.5 percent per year in fare hikes. That will be higher for cars and lower for walk-ons, because Olympia wants to “get people out of their cars.” This strategy favors the city routes with abundant bus service over the rural routes where the transit connections are few and far between.


WSF is proposing service cutbacks: Mukilteo’s late run and two round trips at Point Defiance will be eliminated. The winter “no-service” period to Sidney, BC, will be extended from 12 weeks to 20 weeks. Winter service at the San Juan Islands and Vashon will be reduced. This cuts $1.6 million and forfeits about $500,000 in revenue, or about 80,000 rides.


WSF is proposing to buy more “5 percent biodiesel.”  This costs 6 cents more per gallon, an extra cost of $38,000 for the buy.

Capital Projects

WSF is buying another 144-car ferry, replacing the Mukilteo terminal, and replacing what appears to be the Bainbridge Island passenger ramp at Colman Dock.


Reservations will go forward for the San Juan Islands. However, Puget Sound reservations won’t be considered until after 2017. Reservations are costing more than expected because of the staff needed to sort and stage the vehicles into what works out to be eight different categories.


WSF will be replacing theWave2Go so there’ll be only one electronic ticketing/payment system for all of WSDOT by 2018. Wave2Go was an adaption of the “Galaxy Admissions” system built for amusement parks. The 1980s software didn’t work well with Windows 7 or 8 and was overwhelmed by WSF’s 500 different fares.


There’s $4.5 million for ferry and terminal crew training, an apprentice program, and an upgrade to WSF’s radar/simulator training lab.

Standby Boat

WSF intended to maintain the 34-car M/V Hiyu as the standby boat while decommissioning the Klahowya. This will be reversed so that the 87-car Klahowya is the standby boat starting in 2016.

Marching Orders

Secretary Peterson set 13 tasks for WSF’s new director, Lynne Griffith, to restore union relations and to improve ferry crewing and reliability.

I suggest something fundamental to WSF’s survival: turn around WSF’s downward financial spiral. Fare hikes from 2000 to 2007 cost WSF 15 percent of its riders and, since the time, lost another 8 percent. Meanwhile, costs continue upward at 3.5 percent per year. Even a well of new taxes would run dry if this disparity continues.

— FerryFare is written by Walt Elliott, chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee. Contact him at elliottmoore@comcast.net.