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Transportation Commission seeks public input on ferry fares; public meeting on interisland ferry Aug. 31

By COLLEEN SMITH ARMSTRONG
The Islands' Sounder

The freeze on ferry fares is thawing.

When the state transportation budget was approved in spring, it called for a 2.5 percent fare increase for all routes, to go into effect on Oct. 1.

Since then, the Transportation Commission has proposed two new fare increases: a 5 percent additional increase for San Juan interisland fares, and a “super summer surcharge” which would be a 10 percent higher fare for single tickets (not a multi-ride book) in July and August.

San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee chairman Ed Sutton doesn’t particularly like either proposal.

“It’s not going to raise a significant amount of money for the ferries, so why stick people’s face in the dirt?” he said.

The Transportation Commission is holding three public meetings, one of which will be aboard the inter-island ferry on Aug. 31. The boat departs Friday Harbor at 11:35 a.m., and arrives at Orcas at 12:30, Shaw at 12:45, and Lopez at 1:05 p.m.

“It’s really important we get people to turn out,” Sutton said. “The cork is out of the bottle again. The ferries are losing even more money, partly because of oil prices.”

Sutton supports a super summer surcharge, but not for commercial traffic. He said studies show visitors to the San Juans aren’t opposed to paying a little more in the summer, but commercial trucks, which aren’t eligible to buy a frequent user book, would be heavily impacted.

“If it affects the commercial traffic, our tomatoes will be $5 a pound,” Sutton said.

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