January 2019 Ferry Traffic

Written by Brian Hollingshead

FAC Chairs

January was the banner month that’s been largely missing this past year.  January_2019_Traffic_Stats  Almost every route saw traffic growth.  System vehicle traffic was up 6.47%, with passenger traffic up 5.58%, over last January’s volume.  Graph 1.  However, it’s late in the fiscal year and January is one of the lowest volume months.  Thus, the hefty January increases barely moved the needle on the more modest year to date numbers in Graph 2 (vehicles up 2.32%, passengers up 1.5%).  As has been the case all year, the gains on the Minors substantially outstripped those on the Majors and Route 3.

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This January, compared to previous Januarys, shows the now familiar trend of four years of steady improvement (Graphs 3, 4, 5) following five years of heart-ache.  What’s noteworthy is that the Minors, which were deeper in the ditch than the Majors (and the System) are now experiencing substantially greater gains than the System, above the base year (2010).  The 15% fare cut has to be one of the major contributing factors to the Minor’s robust growth.  The absence of a similar rebound on Rte 3 may be attributed to capacity limitations and on-time-performance issues.  Or even the perception of the existence of those negatives.

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Graph 6 illustrates a generally disappointing year.  While this January is cause for celebration, February, blessed with a full winter in just three weeks, will doubtless continue the saw tooth pattern.  The takeaway is that particularly hostile weather (snow, wind, smoke) can and will have an immediate and dramatic downward influence on traffic.

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And finally, Graphs 7 and 8 remind us that traffic has been increasing to unprecedented heights over the past four years, even though at a lesser rate this past year.  We’ve seen the stress this level of traffic has imposed on some routes, stretched to capacity with their existing vessels.  The Province’s recent announcement of the addition of 2700 previously cancelled round trip sailings is a welcome one.  It’s not clear if that number is in addition to, or includes, sailings already returned by BCF.  Regardless, the additional sailings, where added, will help to a minor degree to reduce the summer season overload crunch.  The real and necessary solution, however, is more and/or bigger boats, which. mercifully, are now at various points in the (metaphorical) pipeline.

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The fare freeze for the coming year should, in the absence of major poor weather events or other external negative influences, result in a steady increase in traffic.   Not too hard to imagine, when comparing to the underperforming months this past year.  Further, the Province’s stated intent to try to keep fares within CPI range, while expanding service and undertaking major capital expenditures, bodes well for critical ferry service into PT5.

Questions or comments, don’t be shy.

Brian

ps In case you’re wondering, I’ve committed to continuing these traffic reports to the end of this fiscal year, though no longer a FAC member.  Two more left – b

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