Summer ferry traffic suggests rethinking user pay

14 SEPTEMBER 2009 –  Summer traffic statistics just released by BC Ferries clearly indicate that high ferry fares affect the system, and suggest that current user-pay policies require re-examination.

The Ferry Advisory Committees chairs (FACC) believe the evidence is in the apparent connection between traffic and fares.

Traffic increased by 3 % across the system, during a period when BC Ferries offered the major routes a fare discount, and minor routes a fuel rebate. Both reductions lowered fares substantially, and both groups saw traffic rise substantially compared to last year.

Major route vehicle traffic saw the largest traffic increase, 4.2 %. Many of these took advantage of a   33% mid-week car/driver fare discount. Passenger traffic, unaffected by the discount, decreased by a   0.5%.

Minor route traffic increased by 2.2 %, during a period when an 8 % fuel rebate decreased fares from last year’s levels.

Northern routes had neither discount nor rebate, and saw traffic decrease. The routes also faced fire-related road closures for central coast ferry connections.

Brian Hollingshead, chair of the Southern Gulf Islands FAC, says “With the great summer weather we had, all traffic might have been expected to come up, but it’s clear non-discounted fares are just too high.”

The reversal of the traffic and fare trend is welcome news. Yet the current discounts and fuel rebates are temporary. So the trend isn’t permanent. Fare increases are slated for the next two years, and the government’s mandated user-pay policy makes it likely increases will continue.

In order to safeguard public access to the BC Coast, the FACC calls on government to re-examine the policies that require the BC Ferry Commissioner and BC Ferries to set ever higher fares.

– 30 –

Contacts

BACKGROUND

July & August traffic

Vehicles 2009 2008 % to Previous Year
Majors 929,759 892,626 4.16%
Minors 995,458 973,803 2.22%
North 11,999 12,111 -0.92%
TOTAL  1,937,216 1,878,540 3.12%
spacer
Passengers 2009 2008 % to Previous Year
Majors 2,862,050 2,875,587 -0.47%
Minors 2,440,689 2,408,633 1.33%
North 37,658 40,257 -6.46%
TOTAL  5,340,397 5,324,477 0.30%

Source: BC Ferries

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