The public cannot continue to subsidize the rising costs of B.C. Ferries, suggests a report from the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs.
The recently released FACC report Coastal Ferries: An Unnecessary Crisis suggested a pilot project to increase ridership.
The burden of providing ferry service has shifted increasingly to ticket holders since 2003, the FACC claimed, pointing to rising fares. More expensive tickets, the FACC argued, have meant a decline in ridership on the minor routes and prevented the major routes from rebounding after the 2008 economic crisis.
"This is an affordability death spiral," the report stated. "It is the core problem facing coastal ferry service.
"The provincial rescue plan is to cut costs and service, and ignore fare increases. This plan misses the mark in several ways," it continued.
The FACC went on to suggest an alternative approach: Use lowered fares to stimulate traffic, combined with more funding from the province to cover capital costs.
While funding for B.C. Transit increased by six per cent between 2007-12, the money given to B.C. Ferries has declined by seven per cent. During that same time period, fares on the major routes increased from $44.50 for car and driver to $66.25.
"What is blatantly obvious," for Gabriola FAC chair John Hodgkins "is that the high level of fares rises out of the fact that the provincial support for ferry services has not kept pace with inflation."
The FACC has proposed three scenario packages as pilot projects that could be applied to the whole system, or a select number of routes. The traffic stimulus pilot suggests pairing a freeze or roll back of fares with an appropriate funding increase from government that ranged from $15.5 million to $53.5 million over two years. "Something's got to be done to try and stop that continuing slide," said Hodgkins.
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