Ferry fare hike decision due Thursday

State transportation officials will decide the latest round of ferry fare hikes at a meeting April 4 in Seattle.

Public comment on the hikes — which average 12.5 percent, but are not uniform — brought few changes to the proposal, after a round of open meetings this past month, ferry spokesperson Pat Patterson said in a news release this week.

If the new fares are adopted, round-trip passenger fares on auto ferries would increase to $5 from the present $4.50 on the Central Sound routes to Bremerton, Bainbridge Island and Kingston. Passenger-only boat fares would go to $7.10 from the present $6.50.

Auto-driver fares would go to $9 each way instead of the present $8, and would increase to $11.25 during the summer, up from the present $10.

The biggest increase would be in the cost of 10-ride coupon books. Passenger books would go from $31.50 to $41 for auto ferries, and from $51.50 to $61 on foot ferries.

The biggest revision to the fare proposal affects the price of monthly passes. Currently available only online, the passes would be sold at retail outlets in ferry communities. Retail price would be set at the equivalent of 16 round-trip tickets — down from the first proposal, the equivalent of 20 trips — plus a handling charge. Passes would be available at a lower “wholesale” price of $61.20, with no handling charge, through an employer’s commute trip reduction program.

Other changes to the fare proposals adjust the early-week pricing for San Juan routes, and postpone a phase-out of discounts for commercial vehicles making six or more cross-sound trips each week.

Comments on the hikes can be submitted in writing to WSF, Tariff Proposal, 2911 Second Avenue, Seattle, WA 98121, or sent by fax to (206) 515-7977. Comments must be received by 12 p.m. April 4.

The TPC is an advisory body to the Washington Transportation Commission, which will make a final decision on the fare-hike proposal. The commission will hold a public meeting at 10 a.m. on April 4 in the Snoqualmie Room on the 4th floor of the King County Courthouse, 516 3d Avenue.

If the commission approves the proposal, the increase will go into effect May 12.

The increase is the second of a planned series of hikes crafted so that the WSF will recover 80 percent of its operating costs from users. The remaining 20 percent and all of the system’s capital costs come from the state, but that funding took an annual hit of some $40 million when the value-based Motor Vehicle Excise Tax was repealed in early 2000.

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