Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on April 27th, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Survey results from Clackamas County show that charging people a fee to roll onto the Canby Ferry with their bikes is very popular idea.
The County is in the process of figuring out how to raise money to keep the Canby Ferry afloat. As we reported back in January, the county faces a major expense in keeping the ferry operational and options on the table include closing it for good, or raising the user fees.
Currently, the ferry (which just opened for the season yesterday) is a beloved connection over the Willamette River for people bicycling between Wilsonville and Canby en route to the great rural roads and campgrounds in the Willamette Valley (home of Oregon's marquee State Scenic Bikeway, Champoeg State Park, wineries, and more). Fares for bike-riding customers have always been free.
As part of their analysis about what revenue-generating steps they should take, the county released a survey in February. Of the 1,026 people that responded to the survey, a whopping 82% answered "yes" to "Should bicyclists be charged to ride the ferry." The survey didn't ask how much a bike fare should cost; but in a question unrelated to the bike fee, over 72% of respondents said they'd be willing to pay between $3 and $5 dollars. (Current fee for small cars is $2, larger cars (over 22-feet) are $4).
This willingness from Clackamas County residents (I assume most of the survey respondents were from there, even though demographic info wasn't made available) to pay more for a river crossing is interesting, given that they famously rejected a $5 per car fee last year to help pay for the Sellwood Bridge project.
Also of note is that, of the 156 people who offered a suggestion or comment on the survey, 82% said the county should keep the ferry. Of those, 43% said it should stay because it's historic and a tourism draw, while just 25% cited the ferry's importance as a vital/convenient travel option (just 6% said it was needed for commerce or shopping).
The County is still mulling over what, if any, changes to make to the ferry's fares. I wasn't able to get in touch with anyone from Clackamas County; but will follow-up and find out what the next steps are. This ferry is likely going to get very busy with people bicycling this summer, so it'll be good to know what to expect. Stay tuned.