Alaska ferry system considers raising rates

The Alaska Marine Highway System is considering raising its rates for traveling aboard the state’s ferries in order to deal with a pared down operating budget approved by lawmakers this spring.

Officials informed the state’s public advisory board this week that the ferry system will end its discount program, according to a story in the May 23 Kodiak Daily Mirror.

“We are actively looking at our tariff system; we feel it is not a fair and equitable system in a lot of areas,” said Richard Leary, the ferry system’s business manager.

The ferry system’s tariff structure last changed in 2007. Leary said the state is considering hiring a consultant to redraw it. Tariff is the term applied for every fee the ferry system charges, from passenger tickets to freight shipments.

In April, lawmakers approved a $162.6 million operating budget for the ferry system, which is 3.1 percent less than what was proposed by Gov. Sean Parnell. To make ends meet, the ferry system has proposed cutting service in Southeast starting early next year and raising revenue by altering rates.

Two discount programs also will end. They are the summer “driver goes free” program and the 30 percent winter round-trip discount. Ending the two programs, which are frequently used on the Kodiak-Homer route, will save the state about $1 million per year.

The ferry system has proposed cutting service in Southeast starting early next year. Trimming service in Southeast will save an estimated $2.7 million.

The ferry system is seeking other savings by ending distribution of its printed schedule in favor of online-only posting. The switch will save an additional $40,000 per year, the state estimates.