Ferry riders are likely to see a slight bump in fares this fall and another increase next year.
The Washington State Transportation Commission this week released its plan for fare and fee increases, which would result in ferry riders paying 2% more to walk on and 2.5% more to drive on this fall.
Next year would bring another round of 2% and 2.5% increases, plus a 25-cent-per-trip fee increase to help pay for a new ferry.
The commission is taking public comment on the proposal through early August.
While fare increases are standard, ferry funding has taken on increased urgency in recent years as the system has been plagued by maintenance issues that take boats out of service, in turn reducing sailings and vehicle capacity on some routes.
State lawmakers this year approved a plan to start funding construction of a new vessel, which can cost about $160 million. Today, a 25-cent fee is charged on all fares. The state would double that and direct the money toward a new boat.
Under the commission’s proposal, the first round of increases would take effect in October. At that time, Washington State Ferries could also increase the fee for reservation no-shows. The surcharge bump and second round of increases would take effect next May.
The proposed fare increase may feel negligible for some riders. In the first round of changes, for example, walk-on passengers between Seattle and Bremerton or Bainbridge would pay about 15 cents more per round trip. Drivers traveling between Anacortes and Friday Harbor would pay about $1 more.
The commission’s proposal would also include additional 5% fare increases in 2019 and 2020 for oversize vehicles traveling on the Anacortes/Sidney, British Columbia, route. A full list of proposed fares for each route is available on the commission’s website.
The state could consider a special fare for low-income passengers and test using Good to Go toll passes for ferry fares.
Share your thoughts on the proposed fare increases by July 29 in an online survey, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to the Washington State Transportation Commission, P.O. Box 47308, Olympia, WA, 98504.
The commission will also take public comment and is expected to vote at an Aug. 6 meeting at the Puget Sound Regional Council in Seattle.