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As seasons change, fares rise on ferries
Fares are going up this year and next on the Washington State Ferry system, to help boost revenue from fares to a total of $310 million over the next two years.
The state Transportation Commission, which sets the fares, announced last week that there will be a 2.5% increase that takes effect Oct. 1, followed by a 3 percent increase May 1.
Additionally, a 25-cent capital surcharge required by legislative action will be added to each ticket effective Oct. 1, and that money will go into a vessel replacement fund.
A news release from the commission announcing the higher fares said “the May 2012 increase is intended to preclude the need for an increase in October 2012.” The commission’s executive director, Reema Griffith, clarified in a phone interview Tuesday that means by implementing the second phase of the fare increases in May when the 2012 peak season starts, there hopefully won’t be a need for another increase next year, which would have to be implemented by Oct. 1.
“What we’re really trying to say there is that there won’t be two increases next year,” Griffith said. “By doing it in May, we get all those peak-season tourists who ride the ferries.”
The upcoming October fare increase coincides with the end of the peak summer season (May-September) when it costs more to ride the ferries. So the round-trip fare for a standard vehicle and driver on the Southworth-Vashon Island ferry, for example, will drop Oct. 1 from the current peak-season amount of $19.45 to $16.25, but that is 70 cents higher than the previous off-peak fare.
One-way ferry service between Southworth and Fauntleroy (West Seattle) currently costs $11.70 for a standard car and driver, but on Oct. 1 will drop to an off-peak fare of $9.85 with the fare increase and capital surcharge. One-way tickets for car and driver on the Bremerton-Seattle run will cost $12.75 as of Oct. 1.
When peak season begins next summer, the fare increase in May will result in a one-way Southworth-Fauntleroy fare of $12.70 and $13.15 for Bremerton-Seattle, while the round-trip Southworth-Vashon fare will be $20.90.
The fare increases apply to vehicle/driver and foot passenger fares for all single and round-trip purchases, as well as multi-ride tickets and monthly passes. A monthly foot passenger pass on the Southworth-Vashon run will increase from $58.25 to $63.55 on Oct. 1, and next summer it will cost $64.80.
Along with the fare increases, the commmission is phasing in over the next three years a reduced fare for smaller vehicles. When the new fares take effect Oct. 1, vehicles up to 14 feet in length will pay 90 percent of the standard (14-22 feet) vehicle fare, and that will eventually decrease to 70 percent.
The commission implemented the change “to encourage small car use to maximize the use of ferry deck space.”
The ferry restructuring also includes a fuel surcharge mechanism to cover unexpected spikes in fuel prices not funded under the current ferry system budget. The budget is based on a current average fuel price of of $3.86 per gallon, and the surcharge would be triggered if the price increases by 2.5 percent, which would be $4.08 per gallon.
WSF will review fuel costs quarterly to determine whether a surcharge may be applied, removed or adjusted higher or lower. The maximum surcharge amount is capped at 10%. Any surcharge will require a 30-day advance notice to customers.
Washington Transportation Commission website: www.wstc.wa.gov/