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Time running out to comment on ferry fare increase
By JENNIFER BRENNOCK
The Islands' Sounder
If adopted by State Transportation Commission, inter-island ferry fares for vehicle and driver will increase 7.5 percent as of Oct. 11.
The current inter-island fare for vehicle and driver is $16.95. The proposal would increase that fare to $17.95 in October. Another increase to $18.75 is proposed for October 2010.
The commission plans to adopt that increase on Sept. 8 at a public hearing in Seattle. The State Transportation Commission held a public meeting onboard an inter-island ferry Monday. The meeting was an opportunity for public comment regarding proposed ferry fare increases.
Monday's meeting began at 11:30 a.m. and ended after 1 p.m. It gathered San Juan County residents from each island along the route.
Mike Aley of Orcas Island Freight Lines said one of his largest costs as a business is getting trucks where they need to be via the ferry.
Aley said, "We're not going very many miles, but those miles are expensive, and man, it stings."
Noting the fare increase will impact more people than visitors to the San Juans, Patricia McKay of Island Concrete Products on San Juan Island said, "Commercial drivers use our ferries all year round. They use it winter, spring, summer, and fall. Why should they get penalized in the summer?"
McKay noted that local government and schools are struggling financially and this would cost them more too.
The San Juan County Council convened during the meeting to hear public reaction as a group and to articulate how the fare increase would affect their constituency.
San Juan County Councilman Howie Rosenfeld, Friday Harbor, said, "We think this isn't wise. You need to be concerned with long-range, sustainable funding for all our transportation needs."
"This is our highway," County Council member Lovel Pratt, South San Juan, said. "This is the way we connect with our community. We're the only county where the way we connect to each other is on ferry roads."
Pratt said that when fares have increased in the past, ridership has decreased.
"Our choice about how we go off-island is dictated by ferry fares," Pratt said.
Monday's meeting was the first of three opportunities in one week for the public to voice concerns about ferry fare increases in a State Transportation Commission forum. The next meeting was Sept. 1 in Silverdale followed by a meeting today on Vashon Island.
Eight days after the first public forum, the commission plans to take action to increase fares at the public hearing on Sept. 8 from 1-5 p.m. at the Puget Sound Regional Council in Seattle. The public may testify during the meeting via conference call at (712) 432-1620 using PIN# 404317.
Public commentary is also being accepted via mail, e-mail and phone.
State Transportation Commission
P.O. Box 47308
Olympia, WA 98504-7308