Ferry Fare

A look at ferry issues from the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee.

Summer reading

A detailed report of Kingston’s March ferry meeting is on Washington State Ferries’ homepage at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/. Click on “Ferry Financing Legislation” and then in the “March/April 2008 – public meetings” paragraph, click on “Tuesday March 25th Kingston.”

Be heard June 24!

The legislature has asked WSF for a new plan to run our ferries. On Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingston Cove Yacht Club, you’ll have an opportunity to speak out on the strategies that may go into that plan. The goals are to make the most of existing ferry capacity, to keep costs down and to improve the quality and timeliness of service. Here’s an overview of the strategies under consideration.

Pricing strategies: Higher auto fares or elimination of frequent-user fares during morning and evening traffic peaks. Off-peak discounts. Better price breaks to walk or bike on. WSF claims these strategies are not intended to raise money. They will however certainly change the burden of ferry costs that different riders bear.

Improving car capacity: Higher prices for large vehicles and lower prices for small cars.

Balancing demand between routes: Incentives to shift riders away from congested routes such as attracting walk-ons to shift from Bainbridge to Kingston.

Reservation systems: A pilot reservation system has started up in Port Townsend. (www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries or 888-808-7977) It’s free and response has been overwhelming. A percentage of the boat is reserved. You would buy a fare for the sailing and don’t get money back if you are a no-show. This reduces the cars waiting in the street. WSF may consider charging a premium for reservations.

Improving transit access: Better transit connections and frequency. More park-and-ride capacity. Better schedule coordination. Communications between ferries and transit when they’re behind schedule.

Technologies for fare collection: Transponders that charge your account as you drive through. Lanes for pre-paid tickets. Limiting the accepted payment forms. Round-trip car tickets.

Terminal improvements for walk-ons and bikers: Secure indoor bike stowage. Better sidewalks and shoulders.

Enhanced user information: Automated route planning between ferries, busses, trains etc. Displays of wait time, departure countdown and parking availability.

Promoting multiple passenger sars: Partnering with outfits like Flexi-car. Allowing all multiple vehicle cars in HOV lanes. Subsiding taxis and rental cars.

Traffic and dock management: Offloading cars in groups and having synchronized traffic lights. Reducing employee and non-rider parking in the holding areas. Rerouting ferry traffic (for example, sending all cars around the north side of the Kingston Community Center).

Parking and holding-area strategies: Parking reservation systems. Ferry parking shared with retail parking. Remote holding areas like the one planned near the junction of Lindvog Road and Highway 104. Increasing parking near terminals

The new WSF ferry plan will become law next winter so your input now is vital. We’re still twisting WSF’s arm to allow enough time to give you a reasonable opportunity to comment. WSF hasn’t cried uncle yet so look for posters and other announcements on the details.

Don’t tax commuters, add capacity

Peak hour fares penalize commuters without solving congestion. Eliminating a car commuter’s frequent-user fares increases those riders’ annual costs from about $4,500 to $6,000. This would be unaffordable to many. (According to credit counseling agencies, this is affordable only to those making over $ 100,000 per year.)

Kingston riders would pay about 130 percent of our route’s operating costs. In effect, peak-hour fares would balance ferry financing on the backs of those commuters who have no choice but to pay up. Kingston doesn’t drive capital spending either. Ferry building over the next 20 years will be to replace 13 over-age ferries, none of which serve Kingston. Taxing commuters won’t solve our congestion because the overloads are caused by summer recreation traffic. That’s why we’ve asked WSF’s Director David Moseley (MOSELED@wsdot.wa.gov) to put the 90-car Sealth (when available) on Kingston-Edmonds Thursdays thru Mondays this summer. As most recreational riders pay full fare, this step would not only reduce our congestion but also be profitable.

(The Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee includes Rex Carlaw, Dennis Cziske, Walt Elliott, Paul Lundy and Linda Paralez. Contact the committee at (360) 297-2845 or elliottmoore@comcast.net.)