Passengers embark on the Tokitae ferry at the Mukilteo terminal in February. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

Passengers embark on the Tokitae ferry at the Mukilteo terminal in February. (Andrea Brown / Herald file)

State ferry fares set to rise for drivers and walk-ons

A state panel proposed a 2.5% hike in each of the next two years to cover the system’s operating costs.

OLYMPIA — Prepare to fork out a little more for a trip on a ferry.

On Tuesday, the state Transportation Commission recommended an across-the-board fare increase to cover the costs of Washington State Ferries for the next two years.

Fares for vehicles and walk-ons would rise 2.5% on Oct. 1 and another 2.5% on Oct. 1, 2022, under the proposal endorsed unanimously by the commission’s seven citizen members.

The change would add about 40 cents each year to a one-way vehicle fare on the Edmonds-Kingston route and a little less than that for the Mukilteo-Clinton route. It will increase prices for vehicle passengers and walk-ons by about 20 cents each year.

Commissioners pondered a second option — boosting vehicle fares by 3.1% this fall and freezing fares for walk-ons. Then, next year, all fares would go up 2.5%. In the end, the panel chose the approach that spreads the financial impact.

In recent weeks, the transportation commission gathered input on both options from ferry users at public meetings, and through an online survey and written comments.

A majority who took part in the meetings preferred increasing fares equally each year. Among those who took the survey and shared thoughts, the prevailing opinion was to not raise fares at all.

That wasn’t an option.

State lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee approved a new two-year state transportation budget requiring the ferry system come up with $9.2 million in additional operating revenue in the 2021-23 biennium. The way to do that is with higher fares.

The commission last boosted ferry prices in 2019.

Higher fares are not completely a done deal.

Comments on the fare proposal can be made online through July 30 at wstc.wa.gov/commission-feedback or by sending an email to transc@wstc.wa.gov.

Commissioners will review comments before taking final action at their Aug. 10 meeting. Public testimony will be taken at that meeting prior to any commission action.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: jcornfield@heraldnet.com; @dospueblos

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