The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Survey says: Over 80% feel bikes should pay for Canby Ferry ride

Posted by on April 27th, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Bike camping at Champoeg St. Park-30

It might not be free for long.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Paul Hanrahan April 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    This is the county that voted against funding for Sellwood bridge at $5 a year and has now derailed an attempt to build a much needed new library for Gladstone and the surrounding areas. Cheap and ignorant.

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    • Dan April 27, 2012 at 6:00 pm

      What’s wrong with the Sellwood Bridge? Why does Gladstone need a new Library?

      Oh, and nice use of a rather wide brush.

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      • Chris I April 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm

        It’s a few years away from being shut down to all motor vehicle traffic, half of which is from Clackamas Co.

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        • Paul Souders April 28, 2012 at 1:10 pm

          Correction: it is a few years from collapsing into the river, regardless of traffic.

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  • 9watts April 27, 2012 at 2:05 pm
    • Tony April 27, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Right on.

      Considering it is on demand, though, I’d be happy to pay up to 1/2 the cost of a car.

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      • q`Tzal April 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm

        No more than half the auto fee,
        No less than the cost of a paper ticket and any needed worker functions.

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  • velomann April 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    I was one who said yes. I ride it occasionally, and if it was a choice between paying or no ferry, that’s a no-brainer for me.

    Wish more Clackamas County folks felt the same way about the Sellwood Bridge. Definition of disconnect, I guess.

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    • Richard April 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

      “over 72% of respondents said they’d be willing to pay between $3 and $5 dollars”

      You nailed it. Clackamas County voters rejected paying $5 for the Sellwood Bridge. Not a $5 toll for each trip, but a $5 licensing surcharge.

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  • Kurt Morris April 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Are these the same Clackamas County residents who balked at a one-time $5 fee to help pay for the new Sellwood Bridge?

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    • Chris I April 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Annual fee, but, yes, the very same.

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    • meh April 28, 2012 at 6:28 am

      The Sellwood bridge isn’t in Clackamas county, so it’s not their infrastructure to fund. It’s not their budget to take care of the problem. If Multnomah wants to put a toll on it, fee for use then so be it but it’s a slippery slope when you start demanding funding from out of the jurisdiction.

      Anyone can selectively put out statistics to present their case, so yes over 70% of trips on the Sellwood start or end in Clackamas county, but that’s misleading because that doesn’t indicate the other end of those trips. The real numbers 73% of trips start or end in Clackamas, while 76% start or end in Multnomah.

      Are you ready to pay for infrastructure in Deschutes county because so many people from Portland and area go to Bend?

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      • Chris I April 30, 2012 at 10:52 am

        If the bridge is in Multnomah County, and Clackamas Co. doesn’t need to pay for it, then why were they on the design committee?

        “The committee is made up of elected and appointed officials such as Multnomah County Chairman Jeff Cogen, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, Metro Councilor Carlotta Collette TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane, Federal Highway Administration Oregon Manager Philip Ditzle, state Sen. Diane Rosenbau and Clackamas County Chairwoman Lynn Peterson.”

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  • encephalopath April 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    It would have been interesting for them to have asked, “Have you ever taken a bicycle on the ferry?”

    How many of the people saying charge bicycles are talking about charging those “other” people over there who are not me?

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  • Jim Lee April 27, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Yes, I have–my old light blue Schwinn “Sports Tourer.”

    A better question: what gear did it take you to RIDE up the west side?

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    • A.K. April 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      34×25, but I’m not a good climber.

      I live in Mult. Co and took the survey, and I said I’d pay. I only think it’s fair that everyone that uses it pays some sort of fee to keep it up and running.

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  • Rob Tsunehiro April 27, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    The Canby Ferry is such a fun way to connect greater Portland to the beautiful open roads to the south. It allows a great return route for loops from the city and I will sadly miss it if it is gone. I’d happily pay to keep this service going and help the community.

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  • woogie April 27, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I’ve only ever used it while riding my bike. I’d pay to use it, since it’s not a scheduled ferry, it moves from side to side on demand, and they’ll come over and pick up cyclists the same way they do drivers.

    Couple of bucks to keep it around, well worth it.

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  • oliver April 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I would happily pay $1.00 and smile no less than I normally do. I would even quietly pay $2.00. I would probably complain at $3.00 $4.00 would be an insult.

    I’m not willing to pay $5.00.

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  • Woodstock Cyclist April 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I love the Canby ferry, one of just four left in the state (including one that goes from Oregon to Washington). I’ve never biked down there but am planning on a longer ride to Champoeg this year and will take the ferry when I do. I’d gladly chip in a couple of bucks to avoid having to ride on 99E or 99W.

    I’m not sure if the study was actually limited to Clackamas County residents. I remember when you posted it and I clicked through and it didn’t seem to verify if you were a resident. I might be wrong about that. Jonathan, have you been able to follow up to check on that? I think that’s pretty important.

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  • Richard Risemberg April 27, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    One or two bucks is certainly fair. Should be less than cars are charged for the obvious reason that bikes take far less room to fit and energy to move. I believe most ferries everywhere charge everyone–drivers, cyclists, pedestrians–something. You would too, if you were running a ferry, paying crew, fuel, maintenance, etc.

    Even the little ferry to Balboa Island here in SoCal charges cyclists a buck and a quarter (cars are two bucks plus extra for every passenger beyond the driver). That crossing’s only 800 feet. Similar fare schedule might work for yours:

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  • BURR April 27, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    another majority rules decision.

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  • Steve April 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    As someone who lives in Clackamas County and commutes via the ferry from time to time in the summer.

    1) At issue with the Sellwood Bridge was a fee added to registration fees to every vehicle registration. At issue here is a toll. And yes the majority of people who live in Clackamas County who don’t take the ferry are happy to let it be paid for by user fees levied upon the relative few whom rely on the Ferry as a vital transportation link. The same people probably be happy if the Sellwood Bridge was paid for by tolls, though I suspect that would impact a lot more people in the County.

    2) The user fees for the Canby Ferry had traditionally been based on how much of the Ferry deck your vehicle takes up. Cars pay $2 and use 1 of the 6 available spaces. Motorcycles pay $1 and use 1 space (theoretically they could double up if there are 2 motorcycles). Other vehicles pay based on size in increments of $2 – a single vehicles taking up all 6 spaces pays $12. On the other hand, bicycle riders and pedestrians are not allowed on the main deck and generally must occupy designated side space (my understanding is these rules are somewhat flexible on weekends when there can be high bicycle traffic and low auto traffic). Bicycle riders are also required to wait until all cars have boarded the ferry before boarding and all cars have departed before departing.

    I took the survey and said that I would not support a fee for bicycles (or pedestrians). If I have to pay to ride my bike across the ferry then I want the same rights to use the Ferry as motor vehicles. That means if 5 cars are in front of me and 1 car shows up behind me, that car behind me has to wait for ferry to come back. That also means I get to queue with cars (as opposed to wait off the site the designated spot) and if I get there first, then I get to board and get off first. That also means that, like a motorcycle, if 11 of my bicycle riding friends and I come along before a car they have to wait for the ferry to come back.

    I think it’s great that there are bicycle riders saying that they would pay a fee rather than the ferry being sidelined. I do also agree that the way the ferry is run on-demand seems like something worth paying for, but again the toll isn’t charged on this basis. Bicycle riders and pedestrians got a “free” pass (my taxes subsidize it anyway) because they weren’t taking room from paying customers. Granted, I have ridden the ferry with my bike and no cars across, but my understanding is that the short trip doesn’t cost anymore than sitting idle with power on. But really, no one seems to be taking issue with this and rather this idea is looking at cyclists as an untapped source of revenue rather than looking at why they don’t pay now and whether it’s fair to charge them in the future.

    Finally, I think that its shortsighted on the part of the elected officials to consider the economic and environmental benefits of encouraging bicycle tourism. These are all reasons why citizens of the County should subsidize the “free” rides of bicyclists – they’re getting a lot of bang for their buck.

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  • GlowBoy April 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

    I’d pay a buck or two. But, like most of the other commenters above, not $5.

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  • noah April 28, 2012 at 9:58 am

    Are you ready to pay for infrastructure in Deschutes county because so many people from Portland and area go to Bend?

    No, but along the same lines, I’d feel justified in taxing Midwestern citizens for Portland infrastructure.

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  • michael downes April 28, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I have fond memories of my camping trip from Brooklyn to Champoeg via the ferry two years ago. Without the option of the ferry it’s not nearly as nice a ride as I discovered last summer when showing a friend the route. The bridge at Oregon City was closed for repairs and the route to Champoeg on the east side of the Willemette is challenging I would happily pay to keep the ferry going but I think it should be proportional to what a car pays.

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  • dwainedibbly April 28, 2012 at 11:10 am

    $1, tops, with some family limit. With bikes you’re approaching a $/person fare, whereas with vehicles it’s $/vehicle. Should 5 of us on bikes have to pay more because we didn’t all pile into 1 car?

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  • SteveD April 28, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Without the Canby Ferry, cyclist heading South in that region must choose to either the I5 Boone Bridge or the shuttle at Oregon City.

    The shoulder of the Boone Bridge is very wide but full of gravel, broken glass, and bits of twisted metal. It’s not a route to take the kids on. I am always fearful of getting a flat or worse being hit by a car that weaves into the shoulder.

    The Oregon City route gives you two choices after you depart the shuttle: 99E South which has no shoulder in places and very fast traffic. Or take the back roads which are steep and don’t have shoulders in many places either. I recommend the back roads.

    None of these routes are bike friendly. If we must pay a fair toll to keep the Ferry running, then I think it is the better choice then closing the ferry.

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    • GlowBoy April 29, 2012 at 9:23 pm

      Don’t forget OR 219, just south of Newberg and a couple miles west of Champoeg. It’s not great, but I found the shoulder acceptably wide enough for the amount of traffic to bike across it last year with my young child on the way home from Champoeg.

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  • Anthony SF April 28, 2012 at 10:05 pm

    The Wheatland Ferry charges a dollar now which isn’t too bad, it was just so nice when it was free. I knew the day was coming when the Canby Ferry would be forced to charge. If I have to chip in a buck (or two) to keep a safe route across the Willamette available then I will. I-5 is a suicide run and 99 E (or W) is a death trap; in essence the Canby Ferry is probably the safest crossing available.

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  • Geoff May 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    So, if I walk on and carry my bike cyclocross style, do I count as a pedestrian? I swear it’s not a bike, it’s a very fashionable purse…

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  • Ben Guernsey May 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    I’m curious how many bikers use the ferry annually. And if there are any regular bike commuters who use it.

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