The Washington State Transportation Commission released its proposal making changes to current ferry fares.
The proposal is the first step towards meeting an overall revenue target of $310 million that must be raised by ferry fares between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013, as required by the current Washington state transportation budget.
The Commission will visit several ferry-served communities to gather input on the proposal, starting at the end of July and going through early August. While specific elements of the fare proposal may be modified as a result of public comment, the Commission is required to make a final decision by the end of August.
The Commission’s proposal has five key elements:
1. General Fare Increase: A 2.5 percent general fare increase is proposed to take effect Oct. 1, 2011 and an additional 3 percent general fare increase is proposed to take effect May 1, 2012. The May 2012 increase is intended to replace the need for an increase in October 2012.
2. Vehicle size category changes: The proposal creates a new size category for cars less than 14 feet, with the fare to eventually be 70 percent of the standard vehicle fare. This new fare category intends to encourage small car use to maximize ferry deck space. This change will be phased in over three years, starting with the fare set at 90 percent of the standard vehicle fare on October 1, 2011, and then set at 80 percent of the standard vehicle fare on May 1, 2012, and finally set at 70 percent of the standard vehicle fare in 2013. Also under the proposal, the standard vehicle size is redefined as 14-22 feet – currently, the maximum length for a standard vehicle is 20 feet.
3. The annual bicycle permit is eliminated and passengers paying with monthly passes, multi-ride cards, or, an ORCA ePurse will be allowed to bring bicycles on board without additional charge. In the San Juan Islands, only passengers using multi-ride cards would be exempt from the bicycle surcharge.
4. A fuel surcharge mechanism is put in place as a way to pay for unexpected spikes in fuel prices not funded under the current budget. Under the proposal, fuel costs must exceed the currently-funded average fuel price of $3.86 per gallon by 2.5 percent to activate the surcharge. This means Washington State Ferry’s (WSF) fuel prices would have to increase to at least $4.08 per gallon to activate the surcharge. WSF will review fuel costs on a quarterly basis and, depending on fuel prices at the time of the review, the surcharge may be applied, removed or adjusted higher or lower. The proposal caps the maximum surcharge amount at 10 percent. Any changes to the surcharge will require a 30 day advanced notice to customers.
5. A system-wide capital surcharge of 25 cents per fare is added. The surcharge is required by law and is dedicated to funding WSF vessel replacement. The 25 cent surcharge will be assessed on every ticket issued, whether a one-way or roundtrip fare. Multi-ride and monthly passes will reflect the total per-ticket price.
The Commission will hold public outreach meetings at several ferry-served communities to gather input on the proposal. The meeting schedule is as follows:
· San Juan Islands: Monday July 25, on the Interisland Boat from 2:15 – 5:05 p.m., and in Friday Harbor from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the San Juan County Council Legislative Building
· Coupeville: Tuesday, July 26, from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Coupeville Inn
· Vashon Island: Thursday, July 28, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at McMurray Middle School
· Bainbridge Island: Tuesday, August 2, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Island Commons
· Bremerton: Wednesday, August 3, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at the Kitsap Conference Center
· Port Orchard: Thursday, August 4, from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. at John Sedgwick Middle School
The Commission will hold a final hearing in Seattle on Wednesday, August 24 at 1 p.m. at the Puget Sound Regional Council located at 1011 Western Ave., Suite 500 in Seattle. The Commission will take public comment and expects to adopt its final fare schedule at this hearing.
For more details on the Commission’s fare proposal and outreach schedule, please visit: www.wstc.wa.gov