Fares aboard state ferries could be going up

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Fares aboard state ferries could increase 10 percent for passengers and 5 percent for vehicles next summer.

If the Alaska Marine Highway System proposal is passed, the increase would be the first across-the-board fare hike since the early 1990s.

It is aimed at bringing in $2 million more revenue during the five-month period when out-of-state visitors dominate ferry ridership, said AMHS General Manager George Capacci.

Loren Gerhard, executive director of the Southeast Conference, a nonprofit organization that represents municipal governments and businesses throughout the region, said AMHS officials provided him with a copy of a study by the Juneau-based McDowell Group outlining the need for a fare increase.

''We understand their reasons for needing to do so,'' Gerhard said. ''We all know fuel prices have gone north, so no big surprise.''

He said the Southeast Conference won't formally oppose the increase but is encouraging AMHS to offer as many discounts as possible, such as for round trips.

The study recommended increasing passenger fares by 30 percent and cabin charges by 20 percent, along with the 5 percent hike for vehicles.

The proposal accepts the recommendation for vehicles but goes for a more modest 10 percent increase for passengers and cabins.

The fare increase would go into effect from May 1 to Sept. 30, establishing a seasonal differential, Capacci said. About 80 percent of the travel on ferries is by nonresidents during those months, he said.

A decline in annual general funds from about $30 million in 1992 to just over $27 million now has added to the problem, he said.

Fare revenue is about $38 million to $40 million a year. The ferry reserve account is being tapped for up to $10 million a year and it will be exhausted in 2002, Capacci said.

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