Four ferry bills floating in state house

For this year’s session of the Washington State Legislature, Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) introduced four bills aimed at reducing fares and other frustrations for riders on the Washington State Ferries.

The first, House Bill 2453, would end the “lock-out” that occurs when the owner of a multi-use pass attempts to pay for two vehicles on the same ferry.

“Let’s say a large family is taking two cars from Bremerton to Seattle,” Appleton said in a press release. “When we had paper tickets each driver could tear one out to use it. Now that electronic passes are used, only one car can be on the pass and the other car is ‘locked-out’ for 30 minutes.

“What difference does it make if the pass is used up in one crossing?” she asked. “The ferry system has the money in advance. If you use up the rides quickly, you just have to buy another one sooner.”

The first reading of the bill was Jan. 14, and is now scheduled for a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee today.

The second, HB 2455, prohibits expiration dates on prepaid multi-use ferry passes. Currently, the holder of a pass that expires with unused fares forfeits those fares.

“In this state, we don’t allow retail gift cards to carry expiration dates,” Appleton said. “It makes no sense that we would allow the ferry system to keep money when they haven’t provided a service.”

As with the previous bill, this bill was first read last week, and is scheduled for a hearing before the Transportation Committee this afternoon.

The third bill, HB 2454, aims to reduce ferry fares. According to Appleton’s office, it would triple the amount of Washington’s state fuel tax devoted to the ferry system, without having any impact on the fuel tax itself. The additional money would be used exclusively to reduce fares.

That bill was first read last week, and has been referred to the Transportation Committee with no hearing scheduled as of Friday.

The last bill, HB 2451, would create a separate ferry commission similar to the current state transportation commission.

“A ferry commission comprising members from ferry-using counties could give us the kind of focus that a statewide transportation group really can’t be expected to have,” Appleton said. “On everything from safety issues to route-setting and fare decisions.”

That bill was also read on Jan. 14 and was referred to the Transportation Committee.

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