Ferry rates see another bump

A new ferry rate increase coupled with seasonal rate changes could mean a continuation of declining ferry use at the Southworth Ferry Terminal.

On May 1, an across-the-board fare increase of 3 percent went into effect on all Washington state ferries. Single-ticket prices also increased 25 percent on routes as part of a peak-season surcharge in place May through September.

A Southworth to Fauntleroy ride for a standard vehicle and a driver will now cost $12.70 for the summer season and $10.20 for the rest of the year. Previously, a one-way ticket in a vehicle cost $9.75.

The rate increase marks the second time in six months the Washington State Transportation Commission has raised ferry rates. In November, the board in charge of setting the rates approved a 2.5 percent across-the-board increase.

The Transportation Commission approved the latest rate increase in August as part of its annual review of ferry fares. The state transportation budget requires Washington State Ferries to meet an overall revenue target of $310 million for collection between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013.

The ferry rate changes could impact an already diminishing ridership for the Fauntleroy/Southworth ferry route. Ridership has dropped on the ferry route for three consecutive quarters. From Jan. 1 through March 31, the Fauntleroy/Southworth route saw an overall 4.9 percent drop in riders, down to 171,184. The Fauntleroy/Vashon/Southworth route also saw a 3.7 percent drop.

Laura Johnson, a spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said the state Legislature funds a certain number of service hours for each route, and Washington State Ferries determines how to best schedule sailings based on the available funding. She does not anticipate a cut to the Southworth/Faunleroy routes even with the decline in riders.

“There are no service cuts planned at this time,” Johnson said.

State Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, said individuals in Kitsap County are feeling the pressure of increased ferry rates. The rate increases, coupled with toll rates on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge continuing to climb, holds Kitsap residents hostage, she said.

“We have people held captive on this side of the water so they have to use a ferry or the bridge,” she said. “It makes it tough.”

Angel is currently investigating selling the naming rights to the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in hopes of decreasing the bridge tolls. Johnson said she was unsure if higher toll rates on the bridge increased ferry ridership.


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