Ferry fares will go up about 2.5 percent on Oct. 11

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The Islands Sounder

There’s good news and bad news.

At its formal public hearing early last week in Seattle, the state Transportation Commission approved a 2.5 percent increase in ferry fares, but rejected the proposed 10 percent summer surcharge.

The fare increase is for all ferries across the state, including those that serve the San Juans, and is the first in two years. The increase will take effect on Oct. 11.

The inter-island fare for a vehicle and driver will increase from $16.65 to $17.95.

On the Anacortes-Friday Harbor route, the fare for car and driver goes up from $34.15 to $35.05 early week, and $37.90 to $38.90 late week.

Summer, that rate increases from $46.15 to $47.35 early week, and $51.20 to $52.25 late week.

The five-ride Wave2Go card goes up from $142.15 to $145.90.

The summer surcharge would have been charged for the months of July and August. It would have raised the fare for a vehicle and driver traveling on an inter-island ferry to $24.25 during the peak season.

The existing 25 percent peak-season surcharge for vehicles, imposed each year from May 1 to the second Sunday in October, will remain in effect. The summer surcharge would have been in addition to that fare.

State Transportation Commission Vice Chairman Bob Distler of Orcas Island said a letter was received from Sen. Phil Rockefeller, Rep. Christine Rolfes and Rep. Sherry Appleton in which they said they would deal with the budget shortfall without imposing what is known as the “super summer surcharge.”

Distler cast his vote for the surcharge. The commission rejected it 5-2.

“I thought it was a good idea. I think we have to start getting incremental revenue for the budget shortfall. I think it was something on the order of $5 or $10 a year for most people,” Distler said. “Moving a boat with vehicles over water is expensive.”

Distler said it costs about $3 to move one vehicle over water for one mile. Costs of running the ferries also include the maintenance and construction of new boats. A plan for new large ferries has been tabled since 1999.

Ed Sutton of the San Juan County Ferry Advisory Committee said his committee was happy with the outcome.

“The argument of the commissioners was that it was their charge from the Legislature to assure that there was enough revenue to fund the budget that was approved,” Sutton said. “There was concern earlier in the summer, so they were looking for other ways to fill the hole, but when the three legislators went on record with their letter, they said, ‘We’ll take care of it.’

“We felt the super summer surcharge was too much, and it wasn’t well thought out. So as a group, we were pleased how it turned out.”

The commission held public meetings on the fare increases on the Kitsap Peninsula, in the San Juan Islands and on Vashon Island. In addition, the state Transportation Commission voted to convert the in-need organization discount from a pilot program into a permanent program, allow state ferries to collect a non-refundable deposit with reservations, and allow ferries to enter into agreements with fire districts for free passage when on emergency calls in trade for fire protection services at ferry terminals.

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