Fare increase proposed for S.F.-North Bay ferries 

Ferry passengers traveling between Tiburon or Sausalito and San Francisco may soon be faced with a fare increase — the second boost in five years.

The ferry service provider, Blue and Gold Fleet, submitted a request to raise fares to the California Public Utilities Commission earlier this month and has asked the state agency for prompt approval, without a public hearing.

The proposed increase would bump up the total price of an adult one-way fare ticket between San Francisco and Tiburon or Sausalito from $8.50 to $9.00.

For commuters who purchase 20-packs of one-way tickets, the increase is more substantial — $2 per ticket. Those passengers, however, have been given a 40 percent discount to date, since they were buying tickets in bulk, and the proposed fare increase still leaves their total ticket cost at 22 percent less than the higher, one-time fare often paid by tourists.

Nonetheless, the proposed increase would result in an $80-per-month increase for the daily ferry commuter going to or from Tiburon. The ferry to and from Sausalito is used mostly by tourists, according to Blue and Gold officials.

The Blue and Gold ferry service to and from Tiburon carries more than 19,000 one-way passengers per month, according to company data. The Sausalito run averages about 22,333 passengers per month.

Blue and Gold also increased fares in 2002 for service between Tiburon and San Francisco, between $0.75 and $1.25 per one-way passenger fare.

The main reason the fare increase is being sought, according to Blue and Gold President Taylor Safford, is that the primary vessel on the service, the M/V Zelinsky, must be taken out of the water by the end of February to undergo substantial structural repairs, due to U.S. Coast Guard requirements.

"The cost of these repairs, approximately $750,000, must be recovered directly from riders," wrote Safford in an e-mail.

The partners who own Blue and Gold have committed to advancing the company the $750,000 in funding for the repairs, according to the company’s request with the CPUC, but only on the condition that they will be reassured repayment within four years from the added revenues projected by the fare increase. Since the February deadline is looming, and slower service predicted without the main vessel, the company has asked for a prompt approval, without a public hearing.

In its written request, Blue and Gold said it didn’t believe anyone would protest the fare increase. Safford said he recently met with officials from Tiburon, as well as riders and business leaders to explain the fare increase. According to its request with the CPUC, the Tiburon/San Francisco service operates at a loss and without public subsidies.

"Though no one liked the idea of a rate increase, the members of the community expressed their support for maintaining the same level of ferry service that the town now enjoys," Safford wrote.

There is a 30-day time period for the CPUC to receive public comment or protests on Blue and Gold’s application, which ends Feb. 7.


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Bonnie Eslinger

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