The Washington State Transportation Commission adopted two ferry fare increases last week; they are set to take effect this fall and again next spring.
The commission also authorized Washington State Ferries to pursue two different pilot programs, one for low-income passengers and the other to test the Good to Go! fare collection system.
On Oct. 1, vehicle fares will go up 2.5% and passenger fares up 2%. On the Triangle Route and between Tahlequah and Point Defiance, a full passenger fare, for example, will increase to $5.65 and a 10 multi-ride pass to $45.70, up from $5.55 and $44.90 currently. Drivers of vehicles between 14 and 22 feet will pay $20.10 for a round trip, while 10-ride passes will cost $161.30, up from the $19.60 regular fare (non-peak season) and $157.30.
On May 1, passenger fares will increase to $5.95 for a round trip and $48.60 for a multi-ride pass. Drivers of vehicles 14 to 22 feet long will pay $20.85 for a round trip, and 10-ride passes will increase to $167.80. These fares will also include a 25-cent surcharge for building a new ferry.
The fare increases were unpopular with with most riders, as 60% opposed them in a recent survey.
The pilot program for low-income riders would start no earlier than 2020. Implementing such a program would be contingent on WSF receiving funding from the Legislature and approval from the commission. The pilot would be limited to three years or less and would be for riders made eligible through an existing transit agency’s low-income fare program.
Many ferry passengers have been urging a switch to Good to Go! toll collection for years. Special fares might need to be established for the pilot and would need commission approval. Like the other pilot program, this one would be limited to no more than three years.
On Monday of this week, Washington State Ferries spokesperson Hadley Rodero said the ferry system now has the flexibility to consider a pilot program of Good To Go! and the authority to develop and propose it, but has no immediate plans to move forward with such a program.
The state Legislature recently passed a two-year transportation budget, which required that WSF generate $407 million in revenue between July 1 and June 30, 2021. These fare increases were set to meet that goal.
In other ferry news, the Vashon Ferry Advisory Committee will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Vashon Island Fire & Rescue board room. The agenda is expected to include the re-appointment of Eric Beckman to the committee, suggested changes to get the boats more on time and alleviate or mitigate the evening service gap, and discussion about WSF’s lack of responsiveness to the committee. The public is welcome.