The state Transportation Commission on Wednesday approved a 2.5 percent increase in fares to take effect Oct. 1 and another 3 percent May 1, commissioner Richard Ford said.
The increases are needed to help the ferry system raise the $310 million it needs to run the system through June 2013, according to the commission.
The plan also includes a new fare category for cars less than 14 feet in length that will eventually result in a discount for drivers of the smaller vehicles.
The standard vehicle size, currently 20 feet or less, will be redefined as 14 to 22 feet.
Drivers of smaller cars would eventually pay 70 percent of the standard fare, with the hope of encouraging riders to drive smaller cars and increasing the number of vehicles that can fit on a boat.
The fare for smaller cars would be phased in, starting at 90 percent of a standard-size car on Oct. 1, then 80 percent next May 1 and 70 percent in 2013.
A capital surcharge of 25 cents would be added to all fares to pay for replacing the ferry fleet. A fuel surcharge could take effect if fuel prices spike.
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