French-speaking visitors take a selfie together aboard a ferry on the Mukilteo/Clinton run. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

French-speaking visitors take a selfie together aboard a ferry on the Mukilteo/Clinton run. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Hearing set in Freeland on proposed hike in ferry fares

WHIDBEY ISLAND — Residents will get a chance next week to comment on a proposed fare hike for the Washington State Ferries.

Members of the state Transportation Commission will conduct a public hearing in Freeland to take testimony on their proposal to increase fares in October and again in October 2018.

The hearing is slated from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Whidbey Telecom Community Media Conference Center, 1651 Main St.

Commissioners drew up a blueprint in May calling for a 2.9 percent fare increase this fall for small- and standard-sized vehicles. An additional 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent would be levied on oversized vehicles depending on their length. These would be vehicles 22 feet and longer. Fares for passengers would rise 2.5 percent. All those increases would kick in Oct. 1.

Then, on Oct. 1, 2018, the fare for small- and standard-sized vehicles would climb another 2.5 percent and for passengers another 2.1 percent. There would be no fare increase for oversized vehicles next year.

With the changes, the fare for a standard-sized vehicle and driver on the Mukilteo-Clinton route would go up 25 cents to $8.95 this year and another 20 cents in 2018. The cost for a passenger would climb to $5.05 this October and $5.15 next October.

On the Edmonds-Kingston route, the base fare for a standard vehicle plus driver would rise 30 cents to $11.60 this fall and to $11.90 next year. Passengers would encounter a 20-cent increase to $8.40 this year and up to $8.55 next year.

Increases will be slightly higher on all routes during the summer peak season.

The price hike is a result of state lawmakers. The 2017-19 transportation operating budget assumes Washington State Ferries will come up with an additional $8.4 million in revenue for day-to-day operations. That amount would push the total collected from fares in the next biennium to $381 million.

Next week’s hearing will be the third of five the commission plans to hold this month. The fourth hearing will be held July 17 on Vashon Island.

The final one is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 26 in the board room at the Puget Sound Regional Council office in Seattle. Commissioners are expected to vote on the final fare and policy changes at that hearing.

If you cannot attend any of the remaining hearings, you can submit comments by email to transc@wstc.wa.gov and put “Ferry Fares” in the subject line.

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

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