The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Riders Pay 100 Percent in This Ferry Financing Scenario

April 25th, 2008 by ed friedrich

There’s still a long way to go in the state’s 2-plus-year quest for a sustainable revenue source. Here’s how I could see a few things shaping up based on what I’ve heard so far.
Studies show there’s too much non-operations stuff being paid for with fares. They’re going to try to trim that way back to a strict definition of operations and maybe they can get close to paying for what’s left with fares. Right now fares pay for 73 percent of operations. They probably can’t get all the way to 100 percent this way. I can see them making up the rest by raising fares on cars but not on passengers because they want to encourage drivers to become walk-ons and make their limited car space go further.
If fares pay for 100 percent of operations, then ferries could be considered the same as highways. People who don’t use the ferries could no longer complain that they shouldn’t have to pay for them. The state would be responsible for paying and maintaining them, but not for operating them. The gas tax, which has been raised 14.5 cents the past several years, is paying for specific highway projects so there’s not really any available for ferries now, but once those projects are built that gas tax will keep coming in. Then the ferries should get a good share of it. Until then, there needs to be some kind of funding bridge.
This is just my off-the-top-of-my-head possibility but it tosses out some of the ideas I think they’re considering.

One Response to “Riders Pay 100 Percent in This Ferry Financing Scenario”

  1. Bob Meadows Says:

    “…but once those projects are built that gas tax will keep coming in. Then the ferries should get a good share of it.”

    Doesn’t the state normally issue bonds to fund construction costs, then pay off those bonds over a period of time — say, 20 years?

    If so, it would be a long time before the bonds are paid off and the revenue is available for other purposes.

    Other than that, you’re onto something: The original idea when the state took over the ferries was to pay operating costs with fare revenue. Starting in the 1970s, the portion of operating costs paid with fares went down substantially — and then started back up after the MVET was repealed.

    Right now, the motor vehicle fuel tax revenue is spent disproportionately. The ferries get about 3 to 4 times as much per person as the roads and highways.

    But, if the gas tax revenue paid only for building and maintaining ferries, such a disproportionate use wouldn’t seem bad.