The Fare Cap
MAY 21, 2015 – The Ferry Advisory Committee chairs were pleased, and surprised, with the announcement of the 1.9% preliminary fare cap. Surprised, because with a nominal 2% inflationary increase in expenses, and the substantial capital program, we were expecting a much higher cap. Given the ground rules – existing service levels and assumed continuance of FY2016 service fee – we realize getting to a 1.9% fare cap was a major achievement. Any further reduction that might be considered between April and June would require additional accommodation.
Sustainability, the term, is borrowed from environmental science referring to ‘endurance of systems and processes’. We hear it referred to in terms of sustainability of the coastal ferry service, as if BC Ferries is in danger of no longer ‘enduring’. This seems to us like wondering if UBC or BC Transit or VGH or the Coquihalla Highway will ‘endure’. In fact, we believe that all four of those, as well as BC Ferries, will (and must) endure, hopefully in good health. That good health will depend primarily on adequate funding from governments and ‘customers’. All five are vital elements of the broad community infrastructure. The demise of any is inconceivable.
We are more concerned with the economic sustainability of the ferry-dependent communities served by the Minor and Northern routes, and Route 3. The ferry service is the economic life-line for these communities.
31 MARCH 2014 – Ferry fares continue their relentless climb into regions of unaffordability, accompanied by repetitive rhetoric from the provincial government that is disconnected from acceptance, or even understanding, of the needs of BC’s coastal region.
With the fare increases taking effect on April 1 and fuel surcharges imposed in January, most passenger fares are up 8.4 percent and vehicle fares are up 7.4 percent over last year, yet another round of fare hikes far above inflation. And seniors now have to pay for travel from Monday to Thursday.
On those northern routes that will continue to operate, fares are up only 1.5 percent, but the fare break is too little, too late. On the northern route due for outright elimination, Route 40 serving the central coast, fares increased 60 percent and traffic dropped 43 percent in a straight line since 2007, under operating conditions that ran counter to local residents’ suggestions to improve the route’s efficiency. Now it’s considered unprofitable, and treated as unsalvageable, regardless of the damage that will result to local communities and BC’s tourism industry.
Ten years ago this month the BC government unveiled a brand new, not-quite-arms-length coastal ferry model. It promised jobs, economic development, modest fare increases and better service – all with no new public debt. The legislation included a move toward greater user pay, in order to reduce the Province’s contribution to coastal ferry service.
The model has failed to achieve its goals. This verdict is based on what we have been hearing for years from an overwhelming number of residents of the communities and users of the ferry routes we represent.
These points are a summary of views, framed by the government’s goals for the current model, followed by our recommendations.
02 OCTOBER 2012 – Representatives of coastal ferry users say new ferry fare hikes announced Monday raise questions about the effectiveness of government response to the ferry affordability gap.
The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) are concerned that fare hikes are double the inflation rate. “Fares will continue to grow much faster than people’s incomes unless government faces the causes of the affordability crisis,” says Tony Law of Hornby-Denman FAC.
In January, a BC Ferry Commission study found that ferry fares were then at the tipping point of affordability, and causing hardship in coastal communities. Since then:
• Current fares are at the tipping point + 4.15 percent;
• Next year those fares will have another 4.1 percent increase;
• The following two years will see two more increases, 4.0 and 3.9 percent;
• Existing fuel surcharges continue on top of that, and will change with future fuel prices.
18 JUNE 2012 – Representatives of coastal ferry users are not surprised by BC Ferries’ fiscal 2012 results, released last week.
They are surprised, however, at the company’s prediction of a return to profitability within two years. The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) believe the basis for this prediction is highly optimistic.
The difference in views centres on traffic and fares.