Whidbey Island routes hit less by ferry hikes

"Whidbey Island's ferry routes escaped the full impact of a new round of ticket price hikes proposed by the Washington State Ferries Tariff Policy Committee.If the proposal announced Thursday becomes law, the cost of taking a vehicle and driver onto the Keystone-Port Townsend ferry will increase from $6.50 to $7. Walk-on passengers will pay $2, up from the current rate of $1.85.On the Clinton-Mukilteo route, the rate for a car and driver will increase from $4.50 to $5.00. Walk-ons will pay $2.70, up from the current $2.50.The increases could have been higher, and on most ferry routes will be. While the rate hike on the Clinton ferry will be 11 percent for drivers and 5 percent for walk-ons, the system-wide average increase will be 20 percent. In the San Juan Islands, the fare increases will average 28 percent.Jack Leengran is chairman for the North Sound Ferry Advisory Board, as well as a member of the Tariff Committee. He said that it could have been worse for Whidbey Islanders.The poor people in the San Juans are getting zapped, he said, referring to the 28 percent increase and the plan for more rate hikes in the future.Leengran said the Whidbey Island routes received lesser increases due to a new way of calculating fares, based on the length of the route and occupancy of the ferries on the route. Because the Clinton-Mukilteo run is so short and so busy, it was less susceptible to the new route equity pricing scheme.System-wide, Washington State Ferries is aiming at collecting 80 percent of operating revenues at the toll booth, up from the present 60 percent. But Clinton-Mukilteo has been paying over 90 percent of its operating costs, and as a result suffered less than other areas in the new round of rate hikes.Leengran emphasized that the the rate hikes are only a proposal at this stage. Final decision will be up to the state Transportation Commission, but first the Legislature will have a say. The proposal has already been presented to a joint session of the legislative transportation committees.------------------Whidbey ferry ratesKeystone-Port TownsendPresent ProposedPassenger $1.85 $2Car & driver $6.50 $7Clinton-MukilteoPresent ProposedPassenger $2.50 $2.70Car & driver $4.50 $5Comments soughtWhidbey Island residents will have a chance to comment on ferry rate increases before they take effect. Ferry officials will be in Freeland on Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church. Higher ticket prices will take effect in May. "

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