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Rate increase looms for Washington state ferry riders

Riding state ferries is likely to become a bit more expensive.

In an attempt to meet revenue goals set by the state Legislature, officials from Washington State Ferries are proposing fare increases over the next two years.

Officials are considering two rounds of fare increases. The first would be a 3 percent increase in vehicle fares and a 2 percent increase in passenger fares that would take effect Oct. 1, 2013. The second would be 2.5 percent increase in vehicle fares and a 2 percent increase in passenger fares that would take effect May 1, 2014.

Based on the current peak-season fares, the fare for a driver and car on the Coupeville ferry route would go from $10.25 to $10.82. The fare for a driver and car on the Clinton ferry route would go from $7.75 to $8.18.

Ferry officials presented their fare proposal last week at a Washington State Transportation Commission meeting. The transportation commission is the state entity that has the authority to adjust fares for the ferry system.

Washington State Ferries has to raise $328 million to meet a budget requirement set by the state Legislature, which is an increase from the amount set in the current biennium. Washington State Ferries is budgeted to collect $310 million in fares during the current biennium and it is meeting that forecasted amount, said Jean Baker, deputy chief of finance and administration for Washington State Ferries. Approximately 65 percent of the revenue Washington State Ferries receives comes from fares.

The proposal includes higher fare increases for vehicle fares than passenger fares.

“Passengers are cheaper to carry than cars,” Baker said. “We should be encouraging passenger traffic.”

Officials are also considering a fare structure for three-wheeled vehicles, which would pay the motorcycle fare if they are under eight-feet in length; change the youth fare discount from 20 percent to 50 percent; and allow no-show fees in lieu of deposits for reservations.

The Washington State Transportation Commission ultimately decides fares for Washington State Ferries. A public comment period will take place during the summer of 2013 and any change in fares will start Oct. 1.

 

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