Cascade: WA Ferries proposes huge fare increase for … bicycle trailers?

WA State Ferries has proposed a dramatic fare hike for people pulling a bicycle trailer.

For the Bainbridge and Bremerton runs, for example, a person biking with a trailer would have to pay $16 during peak season, a 73 percent increase over the current passenger plus bike fare of $9.20, Cascade Bicycle Club’s Vicky Clarke wrote in a blog post. The $16.10 fare would be almost the same as driving a car onto the ferry ($18.20). The costs on the San Juan routes could add up even more because a person with a trailer would have to pay $6.40 – $7.95 for each inter-island ferry ride, which is currently free if you bike.

The way the proposed rule change is worded (PDF), any bicycle trailer (even a little trailer used to pull a child) would be classified the same as a motorcycle or car trailer (“stowage”). So hauling a kid or some camping gear in a bicycle trailer will add as much to your fare as towing an ATV in a trailer behind your car or truck.

“The proposed bike trailer reclassification boils down to an unprecedented fare increase on a small number of ferry users,” wrote Clarke. “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.”

Cascade is urging people to comment on the proposed changes by the end of the day Friday. They even created a handy online form you can use.

The vast majority of people pulling bike trailers are using little Burly-style trailers for kids or BOB trailers for camping gear, etc. These really don’t take up significant deck space. A Burly trailer is basically just a jogging stroller attached to a bike. Of course WA Ferries isn’t going to start charging for strollers, right?

On top of just the cost issue, there’s also a time issue. For the Bainbridge and Bremerton routes, for example, people with bikes and an ORCA card can just beep their cards in Seattle and skip the payment booths. It doesn’t seem fair that someone hauling their kid in a trailer would have to wait in the car line to pay their higher fare while people without kids can just bike through.

Families trying to bike onto ferries are part of the solution to overcrowded ferries and hours-long wait times. They should be encouraged, not punished.

More details from Cascade:

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 1-3% 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 Washington State 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.


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.
  • Traveling 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.


Cascade is asking the Washington State Transportation Commission 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. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the proposal, you can also visit the WSTC website (

About Tom Fucoloro

Founder and Editor of Seattle Bike Blog.
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10 Responses to Cascade: WA Ferries proposes huge fare increase for … bicycle trailers?

  1. Peri Hartman says:


    Dear Washington State Transportation Commission,

    I’m writing regarding the proposed bicycle trailer fare.

    This is crazy logic. By charging nearly as much as a car to take a bike trailer, you are considering the small space and weight of the bike & trailer similar to the much larger space of a car.

    You should *want* to encourage more bikes, with or without trailers. By imposing this fare, you will be doing the opposite.

    Keep the bicycle fares as they are.


    • Godot says:

      Alternatively, treat everyone more equitably: Treat all vehicles at the same rate, charge bicycles at the same weight and size rates as motor vehicles (including their trailers). This would be quite a decrease in fares for bicycles, with or without trailers.

  2. Jon K. says:

    I think this has more to do with poor financial performance by WSF than any attack on cycling. They’ve got to find more revenue anywhere they can.

  3. Shirley says:

    I was curious so this is the information from WDOT about the ferry restructure. I’m still super confused what I am suppose to be charged for my bike or how it’s classified now. Then again I don’t take up a lot of room. Even a whole group of Mama Bears takes up about 1.5 car spaces and that was last summer.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      As written, the changes don’t seem to apply to cargo bikes. Only if there is a trailer.

      • Shirley says:

        On our way from Fauntleroy to Southworth I was warned that I was to be charged more because my bike was large, like a trailer.

  4. ferry rider says:

    Fake news! SAD!

    Someone, not sure if it was Vicky or Tom, is comparing a bicycle+trailer round trip to a car one way trip. Actually, for the basic 14′ to 22′ auto rate vs. motorcycle rate, it is $36.40 vs. $15.80 round trip.

    Now if one wants to complain, the fact that they don’t make any distinction on the size of the trailer is annoying. A Burly Travois is smaller than a lot of the monster wheeled suitcases people walk on with for no extra charge, in fact a Travois behind a Brompton might be shorter than a Bullitt without a trailer. And said Brompton + Travois could be charged as much as a Bullitt + Surly Bill, though I’d try folding up the Brompton, setting it on the Travois and walking the whole thing through the passenger lounge and use my monthly passenger pas to get through the gates.
    Speaking of the monthly passenger pass, if I were to take a trailer I’d get to pay twice for myself (granted there is a huge discount for the pass) And considering pass discounts, there is a 20 ride (10 round trip) motorcycle pass at a significant discount. I once asked if I could use one for bicycle+trailer and the ticket seller said no, stowage if different, but since the PDF linked to above says; “Bicycles towing a trailer are to be charged the motorcycle/driver (stowage) rate”, as the “(stowage)” is in parentheses I’d assume the “motorcycle/driver” is primary classification and one should be able to use the multiride pass. But one would still have to wait in line for the toll booth, so I’ll just pay the money and drive my truck like a civilized human being* (anyone want to buy a lightly used Surly Bill?)

    *if you have to explain the joke it is not funny

  5. Erik says:

    The WA ferry system needs to be run more efficiently and users need to pay a higher share of the costs and that includes cyclists and their trailers which take up more space than one bike alone. It is the most highly subsidized portion of the WA state transportation budget.

    • Peri Hartman says:

      Sounds good “on paper”. But, first, what give you the idea that the ferry system in run inefficiently. A high subsidy level implies nothing about efficiency. Second, how much is fair to charge. The 520 bridge tolls won’t pay for the bridge. Maybe each driver should be paying a higher share. Why not $15 each way, just like for the ferry?

    • AJK says:

      And what “portion” of the “most highly subsidized WA state transportation budget” do motor vehicles use up?

      False argument.

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