Ferry riders could see fare bumps over next year

State is looking for public comment
By Brian Soergel | Jul 02, 2019
Photo by: Brian Soergel The 144-car Suquamish pulls into Edmonds earlier this year. The cost to ride this boat, and all others, could increase in October.

All those who board the Washington State Ferries' boats – by car, by walk-on, by bike, by motorcycle, etc. – may soon feel a little lighter in the wallet as the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) wants to increase fares in October.

The WSTC proposal includes two fare increases over the next year, as well as an increase in the capital surcharge paid with each fare. The increases are required by the state Legislature – signed off by Gov. Jay Inslee – in order to help with the costs of day-to-day operations, the construction of a new ferry vessel, as well as converting two current vessels in WSF’s fleet to hybrids, using both fuel and electricity.

The proposed increase would follow similar increases that occurred in 2017.

According to the WSTC, the proposed increase would help WSF earn $407 million in fare revenue between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2021, to meet the Legislature’s requirement.

Without a fare increase, WSF projects to make $398.3 million in fares for operations. The proposed fare increase projects to cover the remaining $9.6 million needed.

It’s all required in WSF’s two-year state transportation budget that passed recently. In addition, the WSTC proposed the increases after receiving input from WSF, the Ferry Advisory Committee on Tariffs, and public input gathered through earlier ferry community meetings across Puget Sound.

So what exactly are the proposed increases, and when will they start? Here’s what is being proposed:

The numbers

The Edmonds-Kingston route is one of WSF’s biggest moneymakers.

In 2018, the route carried about 2.2 million cars, second only to Mukilteo-Clinton. Under the proposed fare increase, it’s easy to see the Edmonds-Kingston run would help bring in needed dollars for the ferries.

The proposed fare increase would raise prices starting Oct. 1 for vehicles by 2.5 percent, as well as increasing the fare for passengers by 2 percent.

This would soon be followed by an additional 2.5 percent increase for small and standard-sized vehicles, as well as another 2 percent bump for passengers starting May 1, 2020. Also starting May 1 would be a 25-cent increase for the capital surcharge, with that money earmarked for the construction of a new ferry vessel.

The increases mean that a one-way fare for a standard passenger vehicle (14- to 22-feet) on the Edmonds-Kingston run would rise from the today’s (nonpeak season) $15.35 to $15.75 in October and $16.40 in May. That is a $1.05 increase one-way, and $2.10 for a round trip.

The summer one-way vehicle fare for a driver in a standard vehicle would increase to $20.40 next summer.

The new, full passenger fare would increase by 2 percent in October to about $8.65. Next May, it would increase by another 2 percent, plus an additional 25-cent capital surcharge, to $9.05.

Public comment wanted

As expected, WSF and WSTC are seeking feedback on the proposal.

WSTC will be holding its final hearing on the fare proposal Tuesday, Aug. 6 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Board Room, 1011 Western Ave., Suite 500, Seattle.

Public comment will be taken at the meeting, and the commission is expected to vote on the final fare and policy changes at the hearing.

Public comment can also be provided remotely through July 29.

Comments can be provided in the following formats:

  • Online open house: Learn more about the fare proposal and “vote” on each proposed change ferryfarecomments.participate.online.
  • Email: transc@wstc.wa.gov. Indicate “Ferry Fares” in the subject line.
  • In writing: Mail to Washington State Transportation Commission; P.O. Box 47308; Olympia, WA 98504-7308

For more information on transportation commission or its ferry fare proposal, go to www.wstc.wa.gov.

– Mukilteo Beacon Editor Brandon Gustafson contributed to this story.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.