The MV Kittitas, one of the vessels in the Washington State Ferries fleet. (Washington State Department of Transportation)
The Washington State Transportation Commission on Thursday voted to increase fares for Washington State Ferries this fall.
Commissioners approved a 4.25% hike for vehicles and walk-on passengers on Oct. 1 and another 4.25% on Oct. 1, 2024.
They also agreed to provide buyers of a 20-ride book the equivalent of five free trips, up from the four now offered on such purchases. This change ends Sept. 30, 2025 unless renewed in the next round fare-setting.
Raising fares in the face of reduced service and reliability “isn’t a job that we relish,” commission chair Debbie Young said before the final vote.
Another increase could be needed next year to keep the agency’s budget balanced.
A March revenue forecast showed a fare hike of the magnitude approved Thursday would net an additional $28 million for operations. But the latest forecast in June showed ridership not rising as fast as expected. As a result, the higher fares will only net $19.3 million, leaving the agency with an $8.7 million hole to fill.
Reema Griffith, the commission’s executive director, has said “further fare adjustments” could be in store if the shortfall persists into spring of 2024.
This year’s increase is already one of the highest in recent memory. Fare hikes have been around 2.5% annually during the past decade.
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