Riders of the Washington State Ferry system should prepare to pay slightly more to board in the coming years, with some of that money devoted to building a new vessel.
The increases, approved by state transportation officials this week, come in two forms.
First: Fares, which vary by route, will increase 2% for walk-on passengers and 2.5% for drivers on Oct. 1.
Second: On May 1, fares will go up by the same percentages again and each ticket will have an extra 25 cents tacked on to help fund construction of a ferry. The state’s ferry fleet is aging and regularly beset with maintenance issues.
Drivers of oversize vehicles on the Anacortes/Sidney, B.C., route will pay an additional 5% fare increase this fall and another 5% starting in May.
As a result of the increases, the walk-on fare from Seattle to Bainbridge Island, for example, will increase from $8.50 to $8.65 and the drive-on cost for a standard vehicle from Anacortes to Friday Harbor will increase from $49.80 to $51.10. A full table of the new fares is available online.
Washington State Ferries will also look into two potential pilot programs. One, which still needs funding from state lawmakers, would offer a lower fare for passengers with low incomes. Another would test using the Good to Go system to pay ferry fares. That system is currently used to pay tolls.
The Washington State Transportation Commission first proposed the fare hikes in June and sought public comment. In a survey, more than 60% of people opposed the fare increases, but support was higher for the 25-cent charge to fund a new boat.
In total, about $407 million will be raised by fares over the next two years, in line with the state’s latest transportation budget, according to the commission.