Horluck asks for costlier fares

"The cost of a trip from Port Orchard to Bremerton and back again aboard a Horluck foot ferry could jump to $4 by next month.That's because Horluck Tranpsortation Co. owner Hilton Smith formally applied Monday to the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), asking permission to raise adult cash fares from $1.50 to $2, one-way. The foot ferry company is allowed to earn a 7 percent profit, and UTC officials are expected to decide at an Aug. 9 hearing whether Smith's request is justified.According to Smith, Horluck lost $87,000 over the last six months, and he invested nearly as much refurbishing some of his vessels. Smith said he doesn't want the company to spend more money it doesn't have, and he believes the cash fare increases could help pay for the repair of a backup boat. If granted, the fare hikes would be effective Aug. 10, and would secure an additional $10,000 a month for the company, Smith said.This latest request is Horluck's second this year. Saying he heard a rumor Kitsap Transit planned to roll back its bus fares, Smith withdrew in March an application that asked to raise both adult and children's fares to $2.25. The agency did pare down its monthly bus passes from $50 to $40.But Smith promised to apply again if Kitsap Transit didn't lower the passes to $35.Smith argues that the higher monthly passes hurt his company because nearly 90 percent of Horluck's ridership last year purchased the monthly books to ride its foot ferries for free. Only about 60 percent use them now.In an agreement between Kitsap Transit and Horluck, the agency reimburses Horluck for carrying its customers across Sinclair Inlet, which is less costly then busing them around.Smith said he needs to raise cash fares to make up for the loss of Kitsap Transit transfer stubs.If the UTC grants Smith's cash-fare increase request, Smith said he'll also ask Kitsap Transit to raise its reimbursement rate to Horluck from $1.40 to $1.80, and ask that Horluck employees accept Kitsap Transit transfers during all hours of the foot ferries' operation, even if those hours don't coincide with the agency's bus schedules.Smith also plans to ask the agency's board of commissioners to raise reimbursements to his company from $827 to $1,200 for carrying bicycles. Horluck foot ferries carry around 1,200 bikes a month, Smith said, and because of an agreement with Kitsap, he can't charge customers who carry them on. Instead, Kitsap Transit reimburses Horluck a $1 for every bike, he said."

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