The state Transportation Commission voted Tuesday to increase fares for most people who travel on Washington ferries, but youth fares and some other rates will be going down.
The fare hikes totaling about 6 percent will be phased in over the next year. They are expected to raise $328 million over the next two years to meet state budget requirements set by the Legislature. That’s about 6 percent more than the fare budget for 2011-13.
Adult passenger fares will increase 2 percent and vehicle fares will increase 3 percent Oct. 1. Passenger fares will go up another 2 percent and vehicle fares 2.5 percent May 1. Increases would be higher for routes in the San Juan Islands.
For some passengers, fares will be going down. For example, people driving vehicles shorter than 14 feet will be charged 70 percent of the full vehicle fare.
Youth fares also will be going down, from 20 percent off a full fare to half off a full fare.
For a car or SUV between 14 feet and 22 feet long and a driver, the fare will rise about 25 to 40 cents Oct. 1 and another 20 to 35 cents May 1. For example, the Coupeville to Port Townsend fare for a car and driver would go from $10.20 now to $10.50 in October and $10.75 in May.
Before the vote at the meeting in Seattle, Ann Dasch of Anderson Island thanked the commissioners for working to make the system more efficient and for considering her suggestion to lower youth fares.
“Thank you for recognizing that lowering fares for children can increase ridership,” she said.
The commissioners thanked the public for the 147 comments they sent via email about the fare proposal, but expressed dismay that only about 25 people all together attended six outreach meeting around the state designed to gather public comment.Several commissioners recommended spending less money to travel around the state to gather opinions when most people appear to prefer electronic communications.
“We need to consider whether it makes sense to send all of us out to outreach meetings that no one attends,” said Transportation Commission Chairman Dan O’Neal said.
A commission staff member said most of the email comments were in favor of the rate proposal and many made other suggestions for improving the ferry system.
The rate increase was designed to maintain services and pay for increased costs, such as fuel prices, not to improve services, several commissioners said.
In other business, the Transportation Commission voted Tuesday to rename the Skagit River Bridge for State Patrol Trooper Sean M. O’Connell Jr., who died nearby in an accident while directing traffic through detours set up after the bridge collapsed.
Trooper Sean O’Connell, 38, was a 16-year patrol veteran who died May 31 after his motorcycle collided with a truck in Conway.
The change in the bridge name was requested by lawmakers from the 40th District, as well as the chief of the State Patrol and local and state government officials.
“Trooper O’Connell represents the best our state has to offer,” State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said in a statement. “Naming the bridge in his honor is the least we can do to say thank you to him, his family and friends for his service and sacrifice to our state and its citizens.”
O’Neal said the decision was unanimous and enthusiastic. “I can’t think of a more fitting tribute,” he said.