Ferry tariff board drops fee hike

A state tariff committee is no longer recommending a hike in ferry fares for motorcycles in the wake of an “overwhelming” number of complaints from passengers, according to the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC).

Nearly 300 motorcyclists signed a petition sent to Washington State Ferries officials opposing a ratio change that would have raised their ticket costs by at least 11 percent, leading the commission’s Tariff Policy Committee (TPC) to drop that section of this year’s fare proposal, set to take effect May 1.

According to the commission, out of 689 comments WSF received, about the 2006 Tariff Proposal, more than half — 365 — were from motorcyclists, including 273 riders who signed a petition.

The increase they were protesting was a proposed ratio change that would charge a motorcycle driver one-fourth of the price a car driver pays, rather than the current one-fifth.

If approved, it would raise tickets 60 cents on trips between Fauntleroy and Southworth, and nearly a dollar — 95 cents — on trips between Vashon and either Fauntleroy or Southworth.

That part of the WSF 2006 fare proposal — which will raise fares systemwide by six percent — was also the most talked about item amongst Southworth commuters last month, as nearly all of the riders who attended the Feb. 16 meeting at John Sedgwick Junior High came to voice their objections to that particular change.

At that meeting, WSF Planning Director Ray Deardorf said the increase in motorcycle fees was needed because there has been a steady rise in the number of such vehicles on the ferries and they were taking up more space than they had in the past.

“Motorcycles no longer fit in the nooks and crannies,” he said. “They are starting to take up vehicle space, and we want the tariffs to reflect that.”

Several motorcycle riders who attended the meeting voiced strong opposition to the change, saying they disagreed with the notion that their cycles were taking up more space.

WSF officials assured the audience members that their comments were being recorded, and would be reported to first the TPC, then ultimately the WSTC.

Reema Griffith, administrator of the WSTC, said the TPC reviewed all the public comment collected at the meetings and the motorcycle ratio change was “a consistent concern.”

However, Griffith said that since the committee’s recommendation is just that, the commission can still vote to adopt all of the fare increases when it convenes tomorrow — March 23 — to consider approving the proposal.

At that meeting, Griffith said the TPC will present its recommendations, then the public will be allowed to testify before the commission votes to adopt, amend or halt the fare increases.

“The commission takes these proposals very seriously, and they don’t hesitate in postponing if they think it deserves more consideration,” she said.

The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Puget Sound Regional Council Boardroom at 1011 Western Avenue in Seattle.

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