Before April 1, 2013 BC’s coastal ferry routes had been divided into four groups – with a few ungrouped routes called the unregulated routes. On 31 March, 2013 an amending agreement to the Coastal Ferry Services Contract consolidated all of BC Ferries’ designated routes into a single route group. The prime driver behind this move was the objective of achieving a single fare cap applicable to all routes and to permit cross-subsidisation of the loss-making northern and minor routes from the surpluses generated by the major routes.
For reporting purposes, BC Ferries has maintained three distinct service groups, each with its own specific operating characteristics
The four major routes (now including Route 3, previously in a separate route group) are the routes most people think of when they think of BC Ferries: the three routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island and Route 3 linking Metro Vancouver with the Sunshine Coast. These routes are self-sufficient and do not receive government support.
- Route 1 : Tsawwassen – Swartz Bay
- Route 2 : Horseshoe Bay – Departure Bay
- Route 3 : Horseshoe Bay – Langdale
- Route 30 : Tsawwassen – Duke Point
All the other groups are the non-major routes. However, since some of their operating rules are different, the non-major routes are subdivided between the two northern routes and the 18 minor routes.
These routes serve the most remote areas of the BC Coast. The isolation, the great distances and the small population means that a small group of ferry users bears a very high cost of service. These routes will never be self-sufficient, and require significant government support.
- Route 10 : Port Hardy – Prince Rupert (including the Mid Coast connector that replaced Route 40)
- Route 11 : Prince Rupert – Skidegate (Haida Gwaii)
These routes serve most of the ferry-dependent communities on the BC Coast. Relative to the major routes, they have a small number of users to share costs of service, and will never be self-sufficient. They require government support.
- Route 4 : Swartz Bay – Salt Spring (Fulford Harbour)
- Route 5 : Swartz Bay – Outer Gulf Islands
- Route 6 : Crofton – Salt Spring (Vesuvius Bay)
- Route 7 : Earls Cove – Saltery Bay
- Route 8 : Horseshoe Bay – Bowen Island
- Route 9 : Tsawwassen – Southern Gulf Islands
- Route 12 : Brentwood Bay – Mill Bay
- Route 13 : Langdale – Keats – Gambier
- Route 17 : Comox – Powell River
- Route 18 : Powell River – Texada
- Route 19 : Nanaimo Harbour – Gabriola
- Route 20 : Chemainus – Thetis – Penelakut
- Route 21 : Buckley Bay – Denman (Denman West)
- Route 22 : Denman (Gravelly Bay) – Hornby
- Route 23 : Campbell River – Quadra (Quathiaski Cove)
- Route 24 : Quadra (Heriot Bay) – Cortes
- Route 25 : Port McNeill – Alert Bay – Sointula
- Route 26 : Skidegate – Alliford Bay
These routes are served by operators other than BC Ferries. They all require government support, which flows from government through BC Ferries, directly to those other operators.
- Route 25u : Sointula – Alert Bay – Port McNeill
- Route 51 : Ahousat – Hot Springs Cove – Tofino
- Route 53 : Kyuquot – Tahsis – Gold River
- Route 54 : Dodge Cove – Prince Rupert
- Route 55 : Lasqueti – French Creek
- Route 59 : Bamfield – Barkley Sound – Port Alberni
- Route 60 : Hartley Bay – Kitkatla – Oona River – Metlakatla – Prince Rupert
- Route — : Prince Rupert – Tuck Inlet (uses leased BCF vessel)