- Associated Press - Friday, December 2, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska Marine Highway System is changing the way passengers pay for ferry sailings on a Southeast Alaska route starting next year.

Ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said those riding the small ferry Lituya will pay for a round trip to go one direction and get a free trip on the way back. The Lituya, which is the ferry system’s only one-route ship, takes passengers between Metlakatla and Ketchikan, CoastAlaska News reported (https://bit.ly/2gsmkCm).

“This seemed like a good solution because, when you’re driving in the Lower 48 on toll bridges, it’s not uncommon to have a fee going one way and then (it’s) free in the other direction on toll bridges and actually toll roads as well,” Woodrow said.

Travelers are unable to buy tickets in Metlakatla because the Annette Island Ferry Terminal there is unstaffed. Woodrow said Lituya’s small crew isn’t equipped to handle sales, and the ferry system was left with few options after it couldn’t find a contract vendor for Metlakatla.

“While they can still do it online, many of the customers who travel from Metlakatla to Ketchikan use cash primarily as their main way of purchasing tickets,” Woodrow said. “So they can’t actually purchase their tickets until they get to Ketchikan where they can go into the terminal.”

The Metlakatla Indian Community is the region’s largest Tsimshian city with about 1,500 residents.

Ferry officials are finding similar problems in other small port communities where terminals are unstaffed, including Angoon. But ferry officials can’t implement Metlakatla’s new proposed ticket policy in those communities, because the ferries head to multiple ports.

Woodrow said the ferry system is looking into installing ticket kiosks in some communities, which will help solve those problems and benefit residents who lack access to the internet to purchase tickets online.

The payment change for the Lituya will likely take effect in January.

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Information from: KTOO-FM, https://www.ktoo.org


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