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AGO 1963 No. 16 - April 15, 1963
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


1. The Washington toll bridge authority does not have the power to exempt public school children from fares on the Puget Sound ferries when said public school children are riding a public school bus to and from educational trips in the course of their schooling.

2. Same:  The toll bridge authority does however have the authority, with the approval of its consulting engineer, to effect a reasonable reclassification and reduction of charges for this class of user.  What would be an appropriate or reasonable classification is a question of fact to be determined by the toll bridge authority.

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                                                                   April 15, 1963

Honorable Richard L. Pitt
Prosecuting Attorney
Island County
Coupeville, Washington

                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 63-64 No. 16

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office on the following two questions:

            1.         "'Is it within the jurisdiction of the toll bridge authority to exempt public school children from ferry fares when said public school children are riding a public school bus to and from educational trips in the course of their schooling.'"

            2.         "'Is it within the jurisdiction of the toll bridge authority to reduce ferry fares or rates with respect to school children riding public school buses to and from school educational trips.'"

            We answer the first question in the negative; the second affirmatively.


            The Washington toll bridge authority is charged with certain  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] responsibilities regarding the Puget Sound ferry system and has the authority, as hereinafter recited, to fix or alter ferry charges or rates.

            RCW 47.60.150 provides in part as follows:

            "The schedule of charges for the services and facilities of the system shall be fixed and revised from time to time by the authority so that the tolls and revenues collected will yield annual revenue and income sufficient, after allowance for all operating, maintenance and repair expenses to pay the interest and principal and sinking fund charges for all outstanding revenue bonds, and to create and maintain a fund for ordinary renewals and replacements: . . ."

            RCW 47.60.290 reads as follows:

            "The Washington toll bridge authority is hereby authorized and directed to review tariffs and charges as applicable to the operation of the Washington state ferries for the purpose of establishing a more fair and equitable tariff to be charged passengers, vehicles, and commodities on the routes of the Washington state ferries."

            According to RCW 47.60.300, said review "shall give proper consideration to time of travel, distance of travel, operating costs, maintenance and repair expenses, and the resultant effect any change in tariff might have on the debt service requirements of the authority as specifically provided in existing financing programs."

            Finally, RCW 47.60.320 provides:

            "No change in tariff shall be considered by the authority unless said authority shall first have obtained the approval of the consulting engineer appointed by the authority to serve for the account of the Washington state ferries.  Further, no change in tariff shall be considered by the authority that can be construed as contrary to the provisions of the governing bond resolutions then presently outstanding between the authority and the holders of bonds which have theretofore been sold by the authority in connection with financing related to the Washington state ferries."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Pursuant to chapter 9, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess., codified as RCW 47.60.400 through RCW 47.60.470, the Washington toll bridge authority, by resolution, provided for the issuance of refunding revenue bonds.  The bond resolution (No. 362) provides,inter alia, as follows: (§ 11)

            "The Authority covenants that forthwith, upon the adoption of any revised schedule of tolls, certified copies thereof will be filed with the Trustee and mailed by the Authority to the Principal Underwriter and the Consulting Engineer.

            "The Authority covenants that tolls will be classified in a reasonable way to cover all traffic so that the tolls may be uniform in application to all traffic falling within any reasonable class regardless of the status or character of any person, firm or corporation participating in the traffic, that no reduced rate or toll will be allowed within any such class except through the use of commutation or other tickets or privileges based upon frequency or volume, and thatno free passage shall be permitted except to employees of the Authority or the State Highway Commission in the discharge of their official duties in the operation and maintenance of the Ferry System or in accordance with union collective bargaining agreements."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Accordingly, it is clear that the Washington toll bridge authority may not, by virtue of RCW 47.60.320 and the provisions of the governing bond resolution integrated therein, permit free passage other than to employees of the authority or the state highway commission in discharge of their official duties.  Furthermore, RCW 47.60.400 through 47.60.470, referred to above, manifest an intent that the ferry system be self-sustaining.

            However, as regards your second question, it is also apparent that under the existing legislation discussed above, the toll bridge authority has the latitude to effect a change in tariff rates upon the approval of its consulting engineer and within the scope of § 11 as above set out, so as to classify public school children transported in public school buses under an appropriate rate or charge.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            The question as to what is an appropriate or a reasonable classification is a question of fact to be determined by the authority with reference to all the circumstances presented and with further reference to the standards of review set forth in chapter 47.60 RCW.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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