Commuters from Whidbey Island disembark their vehicles from the ferry Tokitae in 2018 in Mukilteo. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Commuters from Whidbey Island disembark their vehicles from the ferry Tokitae in 2018 in Mukilteo. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

One-way ferry fares for vehicles could increase by about $1

It’ll help pay for a new hybrid-electric ferry and converting 2 vessels to run on electricity and fuel.

BREMERTON — Prepare to pay more for a trip on a Washington State Ferry.

On Wednesday, the state Transportation Commission recommended boosting prices to cover the higher costs of day-to-day operations, building of a new hybrid-electric ferry and converting of two existing vessels to run on electricity and fuel.

Vehicle fares would rise 2.5 percent Oct. 1 and another 2.5 percent May 1, 2020 under a draft proposal endorsed unanimously by the commission’s seven citizen members. Fares for walk-ons would climb 2 percent on each of those dates.

Plus a surcharge used solely for vessel construction, which is now a quarter, would go up to 50 cents May 1, 2020.

Collectively, those changes would add about a dollar to a one-way vehicle fare on the Edmonds-Kingston route and a little less than that for the Mukilteo-Clinton route.

The draft proposal will be posted online in the next few days after which ferry users and the general public are encouraged to submit comments. Commissioners will review them before taking final action at their Aug. 6 meeting in Seattle.

Commissioner Debbie Young expressed an openness Wednesday to slimming down the surcharge increase which she knows concerns many riders.

“It’s been tough to decide with (good) arguments on both sides,” she said. “Because we have an option to reduce the capital surcharge in August … I will support it now.”

The push for a general price hike stems from actions taken by state lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee earlier this year.

They approved a new transportation budget requiring Washington State Ferries come up with $407.9 million in fare revenue in the 2019-21 biennium, which is $9.6 million more than the current spending plan. The proposed fare increases are intended to raise that sum.

Meanwhile, money generated from a higher capital surcharge will help finance construction of a new $187 million 144-car Olympic-class hybrid-electric vessel and converting a pair of Jumbo Mark II class ferries run on electricity and fuel.

When added up, a one-way fare for a standard length passenger vehicle on the Edmonds-Kingston route would rise from the present $15.35 — outside the peak season — to $15.75 in October and $16.40 next May, according to a state ferry official. That is a $1.05 increase and double that for a round trip.

Walk-ons, who now pay $8.50 in the non-peak season, will be paying $9.05 next year under the proposal.

Another revision suggested by commissioners would levy a higher penalty on those who make reservations for a specific sailing and then don’t show up. And there are provisions for development of a low-income fare and use of the Good to Go! pass on certain routes.

The transportation commission last raised fares in 2017. And, like now, it phased them in. At that time, hikes ranged from 0.8 percent for oversized vessels to 5.4 percent for small- and standard-sized vehicles. They also bumped up the price of a ticket for walk-ons by 4.2 percent. They made no change in the surcharge.

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

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