Comptroller General urges Province to clarify goals for ferries

09 NOVEMBER 2009 –  Representatives for users of the non-major coastal ferry routes welcome recommendations from the Comptroller General that address concerns about the system’s public service mandate.

The recommendations are contained in a report released Friday on the Comptroller General’s review of BC Ferries and TransLink governance.

The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) say the review was a large task within a tight timeframe. Yet the Comptroller General made some substantive, excellent recommendations.

The most significant ones affirm the public service role of coastal ferry service. The report notes that this is one of the province’s objectives, yet it is not reflected in the governance framework the province created in 2003:

“The focus on the sustainability of the ferry operator(s), as articulated in the Act as a principle to guide the Commission, needs to be balanced with the interests of users of the ferry system, local communities and taxpayers.”

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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.

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Fare cuts work: bright spot in dismal year

25 JUNE 2009 –  The chairs of the 12 Ferry Advisory Committees (FACC) see some warning signs and one bright spot in the latest annual report from BC Ferries (BCF), all of which will affect the system that gives British Columbians public access to their coast.

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A good start to addressing ferry fares

27 OCTOBER 2008 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) welcome the Premier’s announcement of reductions in ferry fares during December and January as an indication that the Province recognizes the impact escalating fares are having on coastal communities.

FACC representatives met with Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Kevin Falcon the day after Premier Gordon Campbell announced that the Province will fund a 33 percent reduction of ferry fares on all ferry routes for December and January and the restoration of ferry service levels for all routes.

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Ferry reps call for strategy meeting with Minister

01 AUGUST 2008 – The chairs of the coast’s 12 Ferry Advisory Committees (FACC) are asking Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon to meet with them at his earliest convenience to work on a strategy for the long-term sustainability of ferry service to their communities as substantial fuel surcharges hit many south coast routes.

Fares on B.C. Ferries’ smaller routes will increase by up to 21% when fuel surcharges go into effect today. Many of these fares have increased by over 100% in the last five years while inflation in B.C. has been only 2% per year.

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Ups and downs of the new ferry math

31 MARCH 2008 – Users of BC Ferries’ non-major routes are brushing up on their math, to try to keep track of what they’re going to be paying for travel, and to try to figure out where it can end.

Fares increases coming on April 1 are the second round of hikes within five months. Together the two hikes have boosted minor route fares by 11% this year.

This is keeping fares on the trajectory that started shooting upward after 2003. By 2011 the cumulative increases are expected to hit triple-digit percentages.

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Ferry fare hikes understated: some over 100%

27 SEPTEMBER 2007 – Recent reports of ferry fare increases understate the actual impact on riders. When increases are applied to actual routes, fares will jump as high as 120% from the time the government restructured BC Ferries in 2003.

A range of figures has been reported recently. These are increases to fare caps, which apply to entire Route Groups. When the fare cap figures are applied to actual routes and current pre-paid ticket fares – the tickets used by the majority of coastal residents – the numbers show dramatically larger increases.

As an example, a parent and two children travelling from Alert Bay to Port Hardy for swimming lessons will pay 97% more in ferry costs in 2011, than they did in 2003.
• $15.52 in April 2003
• $22.90 currrently
• $30.60 in April 2011.

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Higher-than-predicted ferry fares, no end in sight

20 SEPTEMBER 2007 –  Final fare figures from the BC Ferry Commission, released Tuesday, exceed preliminary figures released in March. Yet, representatives of ferry-dependent communities predict that even higher fares are likely.

Fare increases in the next four years will be determined by a formula, tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). If the CPI remains at current levels, fares on smaller routes face the following increases:

• 4.4% in November ’07 (announced previously)
• 4% in April ’08 (up by 0.4% from preliminary figures released in March)
• 7.2% each year for three following years – if the CPI remains unchanged
(up by 0.5% per year from preliminary figures released in March.)

These latest make a total of 12 fare hikes since the restructured ferry system took effect in 2003, with a cumulative fare increase of 90%. The most likely factors to drive fares past that point will be rising fuel prices and the instability of the CPI.

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Ferry fares to increase by more than 30%

16 SEPTEMBER 2007 – Recent reports of 25% hikes in BC Ferries’ fares are not the total picture of increases to come, according to representatives for ferry users.

Figures from BC Ferries President and CEO David Hahn don’t include increases set for November. Nor do they reflect the latest cost of fuel, and projections for future fuel costs.

The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC), who head 12 groups that provide public input into service for ferry-dependent communities, note that when all the factors are considered, ferry users face an average increase of at least 30%. They expect the hikes will be even higher, as a result of the inflation multiplier in the new fare formula.

With unprecedented increases in recent years, users of routes to ferry-dependent communities will be paying fare hikes of more than 80% from 2003 to 2011 fares.

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Proposals for sustainable ferry service

03 MAY 2007 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) have presented the provincial government with a package of urgent proposals that they believe will help mitigate the serious situation facing users of 22 ferries routes to coastal communities in BC.

The FACC met with senior staff of the Transportation Ministry on Friday. The Ministry is in the process of deciding what it will contribute to ferry service for the second term of its service contract with BC Ferries (PT2). The Province must finalize its decision by June 30.

The FACC has identified these key issues for government:

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Cumulative fare hikes felt in coastal communities

02 APRIL 2007 –  Compounded fare increases on most of BC’s ferry routes could reach an average of 85% over 2003 fares by the end of the next regulated service term.

Preliminary fare caps were released Friday for the second performance term (PT2) of the contract between the Province and BC Ferries. The large increases affect 22 routes serving BC’s ferry-dependent communities.

“We already have signs that people are using ferries less than expected because of increases to date, says Greg Aivazoff, Ferry Advisory Committee Chair in Powell River. “If this round of hikes cuts further into travel, then we’ll see big hits to coastal economies and to the contribution they make to BC tourism.”

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Community input for BC Ferries new service term

22 MARCH 2007 –  Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon has agreed to give ferry-dependent communities a voice in the setting of the upcoming term of service, in the contract between BC Ferries and the Province.

The request was made by the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC), based on concerns about fare increases of 30% to 65% already implemented since the new ferry system took effect. The FACC met with Minister Falcon on March 19.

“We’re very pleased the Minister recognizes the value of community suggestions for mitigating the impacts of further increases expected in the next four-year term,” says Tony Law of Hornby Island.

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