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Fare hike may be steeper still

Commuters prevail on discount books, but the general increase may be 7.5 percent.

The good news: frequent ferry riders can still use 10 discounted tickets within 90 days.

The bad news: fares may increase even more than first proposed.

Responding to thousands of comments, the Tariff Policy Committee and Washington State Ferries revised the 2005-2007 Tariff Policy proposal Wednesday, cutting one of its most controversial propositions, but boosting fares by 7.5 percent, higher than the 5 percent hike first proposed.

“We heard the ridership loud and clear,” said Tariff Policy Committee chair Alice Tawresey of the decision not to set the popular multi-ride fare’s expiration at 30 days. “The public process is important, people’s comments were taken seriously and the committee acted accordingly.”

The new proposal also reaffirms the existing 20 percent discount off the full fare price.

But the discount won’t be quite the same if general fares leap from $10 to $10.75 for a car and driver during the off-peak season from October to April.

The committee hopes the fare boost will help fill a revenue gap of approximately $1.7 million that would have been made by changing the expiration dates on the frequent user tickets, Tawresey said.

“Washington State Ferries needs the financial support that these added monies would have brought to the system,” said Mike Anderson, WSF’s executive director.

WSF planner Ray Deardorf estimated the original proposal’s 5 percent fare increase would have added about $4.8 million in 2006 and $6.2 million in 2007 to WSF coffers. The new proposal will add $5.3 million to WSF coffers in 2006 and $5.9 million in 2007, he said.

The decision to drop changes to the frequent user tickets came after WSF and the committee hosted 13 open houses, attended by 1,270 ferry users, and received almost 3,800 comments from citizens.

Changes will redefine “youth” for ticket pricing purposes, with kids 6-18 getting the discount.

The convenience card, which would have provided five round trips in 60 days at a 15 percent discount, was removed from the proposal.

The new electronic fare collection system, set to start this fall, was also criticized by riders.

Many comments disparaged replacing ticket books with a multi-ride card because riders would no longer be able to share tickets.

While the committee acknowledges the new system will make sharing more difficult, members revised their proposal Wednesday to allow the multi-ride card to be scanned for more than one passenger on a sailing.

However, this would not apply to car and driver multi-ride fares.

The state Transportation Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed changes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, at 1011 Western, in the Puget Sound Regional Council Boardroom, in downtown Seattle.

If the commission approves the proposed changes next week, implementation will begin May 30.

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