The Washington State Transportation Commission voted unanimously yesterday to raise ferry rates 2.5 percent on October 5 and an additional 3 percent next May, the Kitsap Sun reports. The commission also voted to charge small vehicles less than full-sized vehicles, allow surcharges if fuel costs rise, and impose a new charge of 25 cents per ticket to pay for new ferry boats.
The 2.5 percent increase was apparently uncontroversial, but the 3 percent hike raised questions among representatives from ferry-dependent counties.
In a letter sent Tuesday, 10 legislators from ferry-oriented counties also supported the 2.5 percent increase in October, but opposed the 3 percent increase next May.
"Ferry communities, like all communities, currently are suffering from the recession, and this additional increase will impact families and the local economies," the Tuesday letter said. Signers included Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor.
Cowan said "it is disturbing" that though the 10 legislators know the state's most recent revenue forecast projects another decrease in government's income for 2011-2013, they still want to trim fares. Decreased fares would mean more money would have to be sought from the Legislature.
The 10 legislators also opposed setting up smaller fares for cars 14 feet long or less, arguing that would discriminate against big families who need large vehicles.
As Seattle Transit Blog noted (and we mentioned) earlier this week, the proposal adopted yesterday also increases the youth fare substantially while maintaining discounts for seniors (who are far less likely to be living in poverty) and actually decreases fares for very large vehicles, those more than 20 feet long.