State ferry fares climb, starting this week

Traveling on a Washington State Ferry will be more expensive starting Thursday.

That’s when an across-the-board fare hike for vehicles and walk-on riders takes effect, the latest increase aimed at keeping the cash-strapped ferry system on an even financial keel.

Passenger fares are going up 2 percent and vehicle fares 2.5 percent under a proposal approved last year by the state Transportation Commission.

Also Thursday, the annual seasonal surcharge kicks in, temporarily bumping up the cost of one-way fares for vehicles and motorcyclists; the increase can be a few quarters or up to a few dollars. The amount of the surcharge, collected through Sept. 30, varies depending on the route and vehicle length. No surcharge is added to Wave2Go multi-ride tickets or for passengers, both walk-ons and in vehicles.

Here’s how the double dose of increases adds up on a few select routes.

Drivers of a standard length car — between 14 and 22 feet — will find the regular one-way fare for the Mukilteo-Clinton route climbing from its current $8.10 to $8.30 due to the fare hike, and to $10.30 with the summer surcharge.

For motorcyclists on this route, the one-way fare is rising to $3.75, plus another 90 cents with the surcharge. Walk-on passengers face an increase of a nickel to $4.80.

On the Edmonds-Kingston route, the one-way fare for a standard length vehicle plus driver is going up from $13.55 to $13.90, and will be $17.30 during the summer.

And for travelers on the Coupeville-Port Townsend route, the change will push the regular fare from $10.50 to $10.75; and to $13.40 with the summer surcharge.

This week’s permanent fare increase comes seven months after a similar-sized adjustment in the price of most one-way travel on Washington’s marine highway system. Both hikes were needed to meet budget goals set by the Legislature.

Lawmakers wanted operators of the state ferry system to raise $328 million in revenue from fares for the 2013-15 budget cycle which was about 6 percent more than it had collected the previous two years.

At this time, there are no more fare increases on the drawing board.

That could change if lawmakers decide next year they want the ferry system to raise more revenue from fares for its day-to-day operations, according to WSF planning director Ray Deardorf.

In anticipation of such a possibility, the Ferry Advisory Committee on Tariff may begin meeting again later this year or early next year to discuss issues around fares, he said in an email.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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