The Islands Trust thinks that BC Ferries is being penny wise and pound foolish, and that it’s island passengers who are paying the price for it.
In May they hired a “public consulting firm with expertise in BC Ferries” to calculate what it would cost to lower the fares on all minor ferry routes by 25 percent. Perrin Thorau & Associates figured $11 to $14 million would be needed to achieve that kind of reduction on all minor routes on B.C.’s coast.
Islands Trust Chair Peter Luckham said the money would be a good investment all ways round.
“Ferry-dependent communities are struggling under the weight of ferry fares that have increased at a pace well above the rate of inflation,” he said.
“We have a constructive proposal. By strategically investing an additional $11 to $14 million annually, the Province can lower fares on BC Ferries’ minor routes by 25 per cent. Affordable fares would attract more customers into the ferry system, bolster B.C.’s economy and result in increased provincial tax revenues – a win-win for everyone.”
Since the enactment of the Coastal Ferries Act in 2003, fare increases on some minor routes have increased at a rate four to five times higher than inflation. The BC Ferry Commissioner has proposed an additional 1.9 per cent annual fare increase during BC Ferries’ next four-year performance term, from 2016 to 2020.
The Islands trust is concerned even higher fares may push ferry-dependent communities over a “tipping point” that will damage economies and reduce ridership.
“Current negotiations for a renewed Coastal Ferry Services Contract are a perfect opportunity for the government to invest in coastal communities,” Luckham said. “Our funding estimates give the Province credible information to make a sound investment decision. We believe a well-advertised drop in fares on the minor routes would help our communities bounce back and give us all time to work on longer-term solutions with the Province.”
You can see the Perrin Thorau & Associates’ report from a link under ‘What’s New?’ on the Islands Trust web site at www.islandstrust.bc.ca.