Transportation commission moves forward on proposals to increase ferry fares

Public comment will now be gathered through July until the final hearing August 6

The Washington State Transportation Commission agreed to move forward with ferry fare and policy change proposals from Washington State Ferries Wednesday, which will now receive public comment through the end of July until the final hearing on Aug. 6.

The proposals passed by the commission included a general fare increase, increase of passenger and vehicle fares and implementation of a capital surcharge.

All proposals were passed unanimously by WSTC except for one item related to reservation no-show fees, which passed 6-1, with the lone opposition vote coming from Commissioner Roy Jennings.

Individual Proposals

The proposed general fare increases would provide additional revenue to allow for lower general fare increases and the spreading of vehicle and passenger fares, according to WSF’s senior planning manager, Ray Deardorf.

Included as part of the increases would be a raise to passenger fares of 2 percent while vehicle fares would increase by 2.5 percent. The implementation of a 25-cent capital surcharge was also proposed as WSF stated a slightly higher surcharge allows for changes in rising construction or other costs to make it easier to continue construction on subsequent vessels.

The next proposal presented by Deardorf and WSF was an international market screen, which would increase oversize vehicle fares by 5 percent each year, in excess of the general fare increase to better align with competitors’ oversize vehicle fares. Analysis by WSF showed that increasing the oversize vehicle fare by five percent each year is estimated to generate additional revenue of $28,000 to $40,000 over the biennium.

A low income fare pilot program could start no earlier than 2020 and would offer low-income fare on any ferry route eligible riders. If implemented, WSF would provide, at a minimum, biannual updates to the transportation commission on the pilot, which would conclude no longer than three years after its implementation.

The lone proposal that did not pass unanimously was related to reservation no-show fees. WSF wrote “Where it is operationally necessary, a reservation no-show fee may be used in lieu of a deposit. The no-show fee will be limited to 25 to 100 percent of the applicable 14’ to under 22’ standard vehicle fare and will be charged if the customer does not travel within the same service day as their reserved sailing, provided there are no service disruptions.”

A disability charge would allow for passengers age 65 and over half-fare passenger toll on any route. In addition, people with disabilities who require attendant care will travel free if documentation is provided.

Next Step

The commission will hold a final hearing on the proposed ferry fare and policy changes Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. in the Puget Sound Regional Council Board Room in Seattle. Public comments gathered through July will be taken into consideration and those in attendance will have the opportunity to testify at the hearing before the commission takes final action.

—Tyler Shuey is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at tshuey@soundpublishing.com

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