Stepping up to oppose 'super surcharge' pricing
August 28, 2009 · 11:52 AM
An open letter to the governor: Recently the Transportation Commission voted for a 2 percent fare increase which state ferries had proposed and also briefed to riders in a June round of public meetings.
The commission, however, also voted for a “super summer surcharge.” This is a new pricing strategy which had not been proposed by WSF and for which the RCW requirements for transparency and public input have not been met.
Riders now pay an additional 25 percent May through October and the “super summer surcharge” will add 10 percent more during July and August.
This surcharge is a new category of tariffs called “pricing strategies” which were authorized by ESB 2358 in 2007.
The intent of pricing strategies is to change riders’ behavior and consequently reduce capital costs. Because changing behavior impacts specific rider groups and that action may yield unintended consequences, ESB 2358 prescribed public meetings, impact assessment, and Ferry Advisory Committee review for all new pricing strategies.
In this case the surcharge adds only 0.3 percent to revenue while increasing fare complexity, hurting low-income riders and harming tourism.
As the legislature assumed that Ferries would develop the pricing strategies WSF was given the responsibility for conducting the public outreach.
As WSF did not propose this surcharge, the public outreach wasn’t done and it’s now too late to do it. Since the commission’s only requirement is for a single public hearing, the RCW steps for vetting pricing strategies have been bypassed.
Initiative 960, made law in 2008, made a statement related to this concern: “The people want to return the authority to impose or increase fees from unelected officials… to the duly elected representatives of the legislature… fee increases should be debated openly and transparently… so the people are given the opportunity to hold them (the legislators) accountable at the next election.”
Kingston’s Ferry Advisory Committee believes that the new surcharge should not be considered for adoption, as the RCW steps for the public vetting of a pricing strategy have not been taken and we request your help on this matter. We also strongly recommend that your office work with ferry area legislators to close this loophole and, if necessary, enact legislation to meet the intent of I-960 for transparency and public accountability of the fare process.
We appreciate all your sincere work on behalf of ferry riders and offer any assistance that we may be able to provide.
Rex Carlaw, Dennis Cziske, Walt Elliott (Chair), Paul Lundy
and Linda Paralez
The Kingston Ferry