The Washington State Transportation Commission is asking the public to weigh in on a proposal to raise ferry fares over the next year, with car fares increasing slightly more than passenger fares.
The commission was tasked by the state Legislature with generating $375 million more in ferry revenue in the next biennium. It proposed a 2.5 percent fare increase for vehicles this October and again in May of 2016, as well as a 1 percent increase for passengers in October and again next May.
Greg Beardsley, head of Vashon’s Ferry Advisory Committee, co-chaired a citizen committee that gave feedback on the plan. He said the state is interested in increasing vehicle fares more than passenger fares to encourage carpooling and walking on the ferries. However, Beardsley and others on the committee questioned the plan. He said he believes charging more to drivers is unfair on Vashon. Many commuters are unable to walk on the ferries because of where or when they work, he noted. Bus service in the area has decreased in recent years, he added, and often people simply need to take their cars for activities such as shopping.
“A lot of people have to drive every day,” he said.
The committee voted 7-4 against the proposal, he said, with some preferring a plan to raise fees 2.5 percent across the board two times. However, the transportation commission stuck with the original plan, which was proposed by Washington State Ferries. The state raised vehicle fares slightly more than passenger fares two years ago as well.
“I don’t think there’s anything we’re going to change in the transportation commission’s planned proposal,” Beardsley said, “but if we don’t speak up as a community now, the policy is going to continue to be this way.”
Public hearings on the proposal will take place in Friday Harbor, Whidbey Island and Bremerton. An online meeting will be at noon Monday. For more information on that event or ways to submit written comments, see wstc.wa.gov.