Opinion

Changes to ferry passenger fare, car size costs | FerryFare

Recently, at the Edmonds terminal we saw a young gray whale hopping and flopping, and also a trainload of three 737 fuselages rolling by … Pacific Northwest cool!

— Chat with WSF’s David Moseley: On May 21, 6:30 p.m., in the Community Center, you can get your questions answered while munching Mirracole Morsel cookies, all for free! Expect to hear about ferry legislation, LNG, building 144-car ferries, WSF’s performance numbers, downtown summer congestion, and ferry fares.

— Fare proposals are a-brewing: Fares bridge the gap between what it costs to run the ferries and the Legislature’s largesse in its budget. Expect a 2.5 percent across-the-board increase this fall, and another 2.5 percent next spring. But there’s more …

— Reducing passenger fares: The vehicle-to-passenger fare ratio is 3.5 to 1. WSF wants to make this 4.2 to 1 and compensate for the passenger discount by upping vehicle fares yet another 2.5 percent. That’s a 7 percent vehicle increase by next spring.

Currently, passengers pay $7.45 per round trip, or about one double latte’s worth per crossing.  I doubt many will abandon their cars for a $7.20 ticket. Without convenient carpools and transit, this proposal will only discourage vehicles without gaining walk-ons and be a financial loser.

— Increasing the youth discount: Children 6-18 get a 20 percent discount. WSF wants to raise this to a 50 percent discount and, you guessed it, compensate by raising other fares another 1 percent. Now we’re up to an 8.5 percent increase by next spring.

— Bigger small-car discounts: Cars less than 14 feet in length get a 20 percent discount over “standard” cars. WSF is considering increasing the discount to 30 percent and compensate by adding 5 cents (3 percent) to the standard vehicle fare. Even allowing for the increased standard car fares and the increased deck space from smaller cars, we figure the current discount still costs $1 million per year. A 30 percent discount will just set us back that much more and push the standard car increases up to 8.8 percent.

— Charging three wheelers as a small car: This would also eliminate the oversized motorcycle fare.  Three-wheelers require about the same deck space as a very small car. For example, a CAN-AM three wheeler and a Smart car are almost the same size at about 9.5 by 5 feet. This begs the question of why not just have an under 10-foot fare for both?

— Extending ORCA to multi-ride cards: This is a no-brainer, as many commuters pay and are reimbursed through their ORCA cards. But there’s more. Be prepared to wave goodbye to “Wave to Go” as WSF will eventually join the 520 and Tacoma Narrows bridges with “Good to Go” windshield passes. If you don’t have a pass you’ll get a bill in the mail, with an extra charge.

— Flat Fare? We now have more than 500 different ferry fares, more than the number of characters in “War and Peace.” So consider this: WSF would scoop up the same amount of revenue if everyone paid a flat $10 fare (with passengers still paying only one way).  On the downside, consultants would lose work, we’d lose chats at the toll booths, and I’d lose fodder for columns.

— Congested: Commis-sioner Rob Gelder is resurrecting a state/county/community working group to look at downtown ferry traffic congestion. Ideas include using all the holding lot area for ferry traffic, not stopping cars at the toll booth while loading, and having summer porta-potties at the tally slip issue stop.

— This column is written by Walt Elliott, chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee. Contact him at elliottmoore@comcast.net.

 

 

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