"Refund, but no ride, for ticket booksFerry commuters can get their money back, with effort."
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:54 PM
"As of last week, those frequent-rider ferry tickets you bought back in May suddenly became a whole lot less useful.They aren't worthless. They just won't get you onto the ferry anymore. The concept was good, but the implementation could have been better, said Alice Tawresey, chair of the State Transportation Commission's Tariff Policy Committee, of the change to new ferry ticket books that has left some commuters irked.The confusion and complaints stem from the timing of a 20 percent ferry fare increase, implemented last spring to balance the ferry system's operating budget.The increase was recommended by Tawresey's committee, and approved conceptually by the Transportation Committee in late March. But the increase couldn't be put into effect until the Legislature approved a bill exempting the increases from the Initiative 601, which generally limits spending increases to the rate of inflation.Approval was delayed for several weeks while the House and Senate wrangled over a rider that would have provided $10,000 for a traffic study around ferry terminals. That impasses was broken when Gov. Gary Locke funded the study - to the tune of $50,000 - from funds he controls.Because the date of the ferry fare increase kept slipping, the ferry system kept selling frequent-user ticket books good for 90 days, according to Washington State Ferry spokesperson Pat Patterson. So when the fare increase did take effect on June 3, a lot of users still had tickets that were stamped as good until August or September.Those tickets were honored for a while - until July 7. But after that date, the tickets became no good. They can either be exchanged for new tickets at the new rate, or mailed to the ferry system for a refund.In the past, when the fare increases were small, we honored the old tickets for 90 days, Patterson said. But the need for revenue is so urgent that we just couldn't do it this time. Remember, everyone who bought tickets after June 3 was paying the higher fare.Tawresey agreed that the WSF couldn't afford to honor all the old-fare tickets.Sixty percent of the riders use ticket books, and we couldn't have them all use the pre-increase ones, she said.But she acknowledged that the July 7 cutoff date had not been well publicized, and that instructions for redeeming the old tickets weren't clear or consistent.In hindsight, I'm sure the ferry system would do it differently, she said. People think they've been beaten out of something, which is not so, she said. But it's not always real convenient to cash in the old books, because you have to go the window between boats.Tawresey said she has heard more complaints about the changeover than anything else in the whole process.I think people are more unhappy about this than about the fare increase, she said. "