Today Skagit County published their draft 2015 income/expense report and fare proposal for the Guemes Ferry system. It includes data that their fares are lower than for the Lummi Island ferry, although operating expenses are very similar. The report reveals why. The Skagit and Whatcom ferry systems have very similar total annual expenses, both ~$2.5 million. That’s true even though the Guemes Ferry is decades newer than the Whatcom Chief, Guemes ferry hours of operation are much shorter (6:30 AM to 8:0 PM Mon – Thurs, to 11:00 Fri and Sat, and 8AM to 10 PM Sunday), and Skagit County does not pay a $200,000+ annual lease fee to the Lummi Nation for the mainland docking lease. So why, despite having similar operating expenses, does the Guemes ferry have lower fares than Lummi Island? The difference lies inSkagit County property taxpayers much more heavily subsidizing the Guemes ferry system (~65% operating expenses) than do Whatcom County taxpayers (45% operating expenses). How ‘good’ or ‘bad’ one judges Skagit County’s higher subsidy and lower fares probably depends heavily on two things:
- if one uses the ferry a lot, and
- what one thinks is a ‘reasonable’ subsidy by road fund property taxes, the majority doubtless paid by those who never or rarely use the ferry.