Re: “Washingtonians deserve a reliable, resilient ferry system” [Oct. 29, Opinion]:
The average Washington State Ferry (WSF) rider earns almost twice as much as the average state taxpayer. However, taxpayers will subsidize these affluent riders $350 million in 2021. This subsidy is financed with regressive gas taxes and vehicle-registration fees on Washingtonians who never board a ferry.
WSF gets 20% of the Washington State Department of Transportation’s highway budget for less than 1% of the commuting population. WSF often compares its percentage subsidy to bus and light-rail subsidies. However, the cost of a ferry trip is many times more costly than a bus trip for a lower-income rider. Ferry riders are 80% white, older, affluent and have the political power to protect their subsidy. Ferry tolls increased just 2.5% as bridge tolls increased 15%.
Like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, Highway 520 floating bridge, and Interstate 405 express lanes, ferries should be paid for by their users. Living on an island or peninsula may provide a great quality of life, but it does not come with an entitlement to subsided ferries.
Bob Ortblad, Seattle