Ferry fare proposal could hit your bike trailer where it hurts

Every year thousands of people cross Puget Sound with their bikes via the Washington State Ferry system for fun and functional trips – some with bike trailers in tow, loaded with camping supplies, children, and other essentials.

Whatever's in your bike trailer, it’s about to get a lot more expensive to take it aboard a WSF ferry, thanks to a new fare proposal being considered by the Washington Transportation Commission. 
This week, join us in opposing the fare change to keep biking an affordable and accessible transportation and tourism option.

Addendum: Scroll to the bottom of this post to learn the outcome of Cascade and our supports’ comments on this proposal.

Next Wednesday (July 26) the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) – the committee that sets state ferry fares – will approve new rates. While ferry fare increases are pretty routine, and are usually around 2% every two years, the proposal before the WSTC this year includes a "reclassification” of bikes with trailers that will result in most summer season bike-trailer trips costing 1.5 times the current cost! The Commission is receiving public comment through Friday.

Towing a trailer behind your bike aboard a WSF ferry is currently covered as part of the $1 bicycle surcharge paid on the standard passenger fare when you bring your bike aboard. The proposal in front of the WSTC will reclassify bikes with trailers, charging them a higher vehicle “stowage” fee rather than the bicycle surcharge.

The proposed bike trailer reclassification boils down to an unprecedented fare increase on a small number of ferry users. It’s a change that will impact a few people greatly – like families with small children, bike tourists and people who use a bicycle as their sole mode of travel –  while generating a negligible revenue increase to the system.

DOLLARS MORE TO RIDE

Functionally, a reclassification would mean that rolling from Seattle to Fay Bainbridge Park for an overnight camping trip, or touring the San Juan’s by bike is about to cost a whole lot more. We’ve done the math on these routes, and the current and future proposed costs are below.

  • A summer (peak season) return trip between Seattle and Bainbridge Island will change from $9.20 under the current fare structure to $16. That’s a 73% fare increase.
  • Travelling with a bike trailer from Anacortes to Friday Harbor in summer will go from $17.25 to $27.05 – a 57% increase, and that’s before you factor in inter-Island ferry travel once you’ve made it to Anacortes. Currently that is free to bikes and pedestrians, the proposed reclassification to a bike and trailer being a vehicle means paying $6.40 on each leg of inter-island travel.

JUST A FEW DAYS LEFT TO VOICE CONCERN

Cascade is asking the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC) not to approve this reclassification, and to keep fares affordable for people who bike. Will you join us in telling the WSTC that people who bike do not support this fare increase?

We have through Friday to email the WSTC and comment on the new ferry fare proposals, especially the one that will disproportionately impact people who bike.

AN UPDATE AS OF JULY 26, 2017

In the four days after this post was published, over 550 Cascade members and supporters shared their thoughts on the fare increase proposal with Washington State Ferries (WSF) and the Washington State Transportation Commission (WSTC). The bike trailer fare proposal was, according to the WSTC, “the biggest single issue commented on among all the fare proposals.”

The result: WSF and WSTC backpedalled on the idea of a flat fare increase for all bike trailers on ferries. Instead, starting October 2017, only bikes towing kayaks and canoes will pay a higher fare – and on inter-island journeys in the San Juan’s that fee will be waived. Bikes towing all other types of trailers will continue to pay the passenger plus bicycle surcharge rate.

The outcome –  shaped by the hundreds of comments you all sent – will help keep biking an affordable, accessible transportation option.

Bikes roll off the ferry in Winslow, Bainbridge Island. It's a busy route for bike commuters heading to jobs in Seattle, and people exploring the west side of Puget Sound by bike. 

Vicky Clarke's picture
Vicky Clarke