Ferry rescue plan shows cracks

22 NOVEMBER 2013 –  The provincial government’s own information shows that the ferry rescue plan unveiled by Transportation Minister Todd Stone this week is based on numbers that don’t add up to a solution.

The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) are being asked to help tweak schedules to make the plan more workable. But no amount of tweaking will change the fact that the cuts to service and to seniors’ discounts are side issues. The root problems remain.

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10th anniversary fix for failing ferry model

12 DECEMBER 2012 – Ten years ago this week, the BC government unveiled a brand new, not-quite-arms-length coastal ferry system. It promised jobs, economic development, modest fare increases and better service – all with no new public debt.

That anniversary coincides with this week’s wrap-up of government’s whirlwind ferry consultation tour. The community tour was meant to talk about ways to save money. But residents and business people ended up delivering a verdict on the ferry experiment: the model has failed to achieve its goals.

“While we’re pleased the government is finally talking to the communities the model is supposed to serve, we’re disturbed by the large gap between government’s view of the system and ferry users’ reality,” says Tony Law, of the Hornby-Denman Ferry Advisory Committee. Continue reading

Service consultations: questioning the point

30 OCTOBER 2012 – The ferry service consultation just launched by the provincial government is confusing, rushed, and missing key parts of the picture, say representatives of coastal ferry users.

In the light of what’s missing, the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) question the consultation goals.

“Yes, it’s worth discussing the Province’s two stated goals – how to save money, and a long-term vision for coastal transportation.” says Harold Swierenga of Salt Spring Island FAC. “But there are many holes and questionable assumptions in the picture of the situation as it’s presented.

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New ferry fare hikes: Beyond the tipping point

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.

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Ferry user reps question traffic recovery

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.

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Ferry commissioner report: realistic roadmap for all ferry stakeholders

27 JANUARY 2012 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) welcome the BC Ferry Commissioner’s report on the review of the Coastal Ferry Act as a realistic though rocky path toward sustainability of essential coastal transportation.

The Commissioner found that fares have reached the “tipping point of affordability” and that “all of the principle stakeholders will need to be part of the solution.”

“The Commissioner has drawn a realistic picture of the problems in the ferry system,” says Tony Law of the Denman-Hornby FAC, “and of the responsibilities all the stakeholders have for fixing those problems.”

The FACC are pleased to see several of their long-standing requests among the Commissioner’s recommendations:
• make the Ferry Commissioner’s main responsibility protecting interests of ferry users and taxpayers;
• remove the requirement that the ferry system move toward user pay;
• remove the ban on cross-subsidization among route groups;
• limit future price cap increases to the rate of inflation.

“These are essential elements for reining in the galloping fare increases, which since 2003 have eroded ridership, hurt coastal economies, and threatened the sustainability of BC Ferries itself,” says Brian  Hollingshead of the Southern Gulf Islands FAC.

But they’re not enough.

“Coastal ferry users have to be realistic and accept some service changes,” says Harold Swierenga of Salt Spring FAC. “But we want to be absolutely clear: service cuts are only acceptable if the provincial government does its part too, and increases its financial contribution to adequately support the coastal ferry system. Anything else just won’t work.”

The FACC considers government contribution to be adequate if it brings fares back from the tipping point. That requires an initial fare roll-back, to create a sustainable baseline for inflation-indexed increases.

“Only this method will restore traffic to levels that will support the system,” says Bill Cripps of Northern Sunshine Coast FAC.

“We realize the provincial treasury has many demands on it,” says Cripps, “but we believe adequate support for ferries is critical for economic investment. Given that economic growth depends on solid transportation infrastructure, adequate ferry support underpins the Premier’s jobs plan.”

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Fixing ferry fares: heavy lifting still ahead

27 MAY 2011 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) welcome the partial relief from escalating ferry fares announced this week by Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom.

But the drop from 8.23 to 4.15 percent in next year’s fare hike doesn’t touch recent increases, nor fix the fare problem in the long term. Neither will the new ferry review, unless it takes on the issue of public policy and government support for ferries.

“We applaud the fact that for the first time a minister has echoed the consistent call to address both affordability and sustainability, and that the commissioner will review this difficult balancing act,” says Tony Law of Hornby-Denman FAC. “But it isn’t enough to stop the damage to communities, ferry users or the ferry service itself.”

The partial rollback won’t feel like relief when people board a ferry this summer. Ferries will cost 17 percent more than they did last summer — what with the end of a fuel rebate, the addition of a fuel surcharge, and the annual fare increase that took effect last month.

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Assessing ferry fare projections

07 February 2011 –  Recently reported coastal ferry fare increases are a realistic assessment of what will happen in the absence of additional government support or of service reductions, say the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC), which represent residents of coastal communities.

While projections may change if conditions change, the FACC see these as fixed realities:

  • The major and non-major route groups are different.
  • Only the provincial government can substantially reduce projected fares.
  • Basic provincial support for coastal ferries is $92M a year, unchanged since 2003.
  • Coastal communities are like any rural BC community.
  • Additional ferry funding makes good economic and public policy sense.
  • Imagine BC without affordable public access to the coast.

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Community input into ferry contract review

30 NOVEMBER 2010 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) have prepared two reports, which they have asked government to consider in the current review of the coastal ferry contract:

Ominous clouds
Summary of critical issues and data: fares and traffic, cost drivers, potential service reductions, and government funding analysis

Community impacts of escalating ferry fares
Impact of fare escalation on families, workforce, economies, part-time residents and tourists. Includes examples from residents and businesses.

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Decision time for ferry fares and service

02 SEPTEMBER 2010 –  Behind the scenes of this busy ferry travel weekend, work has started on a review of the contract between the provincial government and BC Ferries.

Every four years the Province decides on the level of service it wants to see provided (number of sailings per route), and how much it will pay for it (transportation fee).

The Ferry Advisory Chairs (FACC) are concerned that this current contract review faces a combination of factors that could lead to double-digit fares increases or service cuts, or both.

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Missing piece in new ferry bill

05 MAY 2010 –  A key recommendation by the Comptroller General is missing from the Province’s proposed changes for the ferry system. That recommendation could safeguard the public service role of ferries and reconcile an apparent conflict in government goals for the system, say the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC).

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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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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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