Proposal: Half-Price Youth Fares On Wash. State Ferries

Jul 8, 2013

The Washington State Ferries' M/V Quinault approaches the Keystone landing on Whidbey Island.
The Washington State Ferries' M/V Quinault approaches the Keystone landing on Whidbey Island.
Credit Flickr Photo/A. Davey

Correction 7/9/13: A previous version of this story erroneously stated that on the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry, the peak season, round-trip fare for a car and driver would go up $0.90 to $17.30. That total was a one-way fare. In fact, the round-trip fare would increase $1.80, to $34.60.

If you ride the Washington State Ferries, prepare to pay a bit more. The Washington State Transportation Commission wants to increase fares by about six percent within the next year. The commission says the rate hike is needed to meet revenue targets set by the legislature in the 2013-2015 transportation budget.

To minimize the sticker-shock for families, the proposal includes a 50 percent fare discount for youth ages six to 18. That would lower the round-trip youth fare on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge Island route, for example, from $6.20 to $4.15 in May 2014.

On a sunny Monday morning, Dan Braum was at the Seattle Ferry Terminal with his two grandsons, Alex and Gavin, ages 11 and six. As they waited for the Bremerton ferry, Braum said the ferry ride for them is about more than just getting from one place to the next. The boys said they like to look for Orca whales, jellyfish and seals from the boats. Gavin also said he likes the ice cream sandwiches on board.

Braum said he’s glad to hear the proposed fare changes would give families a price break. “I think that’s great,” Braum said. “I think that’s family friendly. It encourages families to be together and I think that’s a good thing.”

Under the proposal, most ferry rates would go up in October 2013 and again in May 2014. The ticket increases range from a few nickels to a few dollars, depending on the route and type of vehicle. For example, on the Seattle-to-Bainbridge ferry a peak-season, round-trip fare for a car and driver would go up by $1.80, to $34.60.  Compare that with the Anacortes-to-Friday Harbor route, where the price for that same car and driver would increase by $3.30, to $60.65.

“I think those fares are ridiculous,” said Port Townsend resident Mike Tapogna, whose family rides a ferry a couple of times a month. Tapongna said lower youth fares won’t get his family to ride the ferries more, but something that would is a cheaper ticket to the San Juan Islands.

“I haven’t been up there in four years, so that’s indication of fares stopping me traveling up there for sure,” Tapogna said.

The transportation commission has scheduled several public hearings about the fare proposal during the coming days, including meetings on Vashon and Bainbridge Islands. The commission plans to make a final decision at its July 30 meeting in Seattle.