Island routes hit less by ferry hikes

"Whidbey Island's two ferry routes escaped the full impact of a new round of ticket price hikes proposed by the Washington State Ferries Tariff Committee.If the proposal announced Thursday becomes law, the cost of driving across from Clinton to Mukilteo will increase from $4.50 to $5.00. Walk-on passengers will pay $2.70 rather than $2.50. That translates into an 11 percent increase for drivers and 5 percent increase for walkers, compared to the systemwide average increase of 20 percent.Jack Leengran is chairman of the North Sound Ferry Advisory Board, as well as a member of the Tariff Committee. He said Monday that it could have been worse for Whidbey Islanders. The poor people up in the San Juans are getting zapped, he said. Increases there are 28 percent, with more rate hikes planned in future years.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.Systemwide, 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 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. Next Monday the proposal will be presented to a joint session of the legislative transportation committees. "

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