Ferry Fares: PLIC’s Summary & Suggestions

Editor’s Note:  We want to insure that all discussion and ideas regarding ferry fares are easy to find and respond to.  Your thoughts and suggestions are of value.  Take a moment now to let county government officials know what they are, and leave your comments here as well.

Dear Neighbors, Family, and Friends,
As you probably know by now, on Tuesday (10/26) County Council passed on an option to increase ferry fares substantially starting probably in January 2011. The process going forward:
1. Public Works will draft an ordinance that the Council will act on in its regular meeting November 9.

2. If it passes, the ordinance, which can be amended, will then be scheduled for a public hearing — probably two weeks later.

3. Once the rate increase ordinance is in effect, Public Works predicted a minimum of 45 days and probably 50-60 days would be needed to implement the new fare structure.

This proposal (Option 11 among the 12 submitted by Public Works, which you can find through links on www.plicferry.org), contains among many, many details the outline of basic fare changes that include:

–25% increase in a walk-on ticket, from $4 to $5.
–Multi-trip walk-on card for 25 round trips rises from $40 to $115 (a 288% increase per r-t from $1.60 to $4.60.
–40% increase in car & driver ticket, from $10 to $14.
–Multi-trip car & driver ticket for 25 round trips rises from $160 to $287 (a 180% increase per r-t from $6.40 to $11.48.

Needs-based fares became a focal point of discussion, and Council left the door open with an amendment to continue discussion about those fares. Public Works is charged with re-examing and providing an analysis of the cost and administration of these special fares. Some council members favor eliminating them altogether, and others supported a proposal to turn over administration of a county allotment of needs-based fares to one or more island organizations.

Option 11 includes an increase of needs-based fares from $23 to $31 for 25 round trips by a walk-on, and from $36 to $49 for 10 round trips to cover car and driver.

The basic 35% increase configuration also, of course, hits truck and trailer traffic with larger layouts, which some council members objected to because those fares seemed “disproportionate.”

The motion that passed carried “friendly amendments” to continue discussion about reorganizing or eliminating special-needs fares, or possibly turning administration of those fares over to one or more island organizations.

Four PLIC board members attended this Council meeting of the whole, and Rhayma Blake (assisted by PLIC member Robert Rich) compiled a detailed summary of the proceedings. We’ve attached it here in a MS Word file, or you can link to a .pdf version on the Web site here: http://plicferry.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/County-Council-discussion-on-fare-increases.pdf

The site also has links to all the Public Works options, to the Bellingham News report on the meeting, and all documents showing ferry fare, ferry operations costs, and ridership analyses over the last several years.

* * *

At the regular County Council meeting Tuesday night, three PLIC representatives spoke, plus some islanders voicing their personal concerns. We’ll send you a capsule of PLIC positions after some editing; the core messages were to slow down and examine all data more thoroughly before enacting the largest fare increase in our history; reconsider an option of a surcharge as a stop-gap measure to meet budget shortfalls until a new lease agreement is negotiated through mediation; don’t assume $200,000/yearly lease payments in a permanent ferry rate increase while still negotiating (thus weakening the County’s position in mediation); and return to negotiating for a minimum 50-year lease (25, plus 25 extension).

Please plan to attend our next community meeting Thursday, November 18, 6:30 p.m. at The Grange.
Thank you for your continued input, energy, and commitment.

The PLIC Board

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