Posted by: FACC | 2014 03 31

Latest fare hikes just prolong ferry troubles

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2013 12 05

Ferry cuts: The sweet spot

REVISED: See bold in table in this post and in background link.

5 DECEMBER 2013 – While the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs have not yet succeeded in figuring out how the provincial government’s ferry cuts will safeguard the coastal ferry system, they do think they’ve found the sweet spot for the least painful possible service cuts.

“If the government’s goal is to find the biggest savings for the smallest traffic loss and least hardship, then we suggest it looks harder at the major routes, and at the big money-losing route hiding behind the profit-makers,” says Brian Hollingshead of the Southern Gulf Islands.

The three major routes (from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island) are the giants of the system. Yet they’re facing the slimmest of cuts compared to the 22 smaller routes. Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2013 12 05

Route 30 – Tsawwassen-Duke Point

The Tsawwassen-Duke Point route presents an opportunity for service cuts that would result in the biggest possible savings, with the least likely traffic loss and least social and economic impact.

This conclusion is based on analysis of data from BC Ferries to the BC Ferry Commission, and BC Ferries traffic data.

REVISED first table in the pdf

13Dec-Route 30-revised-Tsawwassen-Duke Point  (32 KB pdf)

Posted by: FACC | 2013 11 22

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2013 11 22

Service cuts vs traffic losses

This is a study that compares the savings from service cuts to the dollar value of traffic losses. It demonstrates that the savings will not offset the value of lost traffic. The report was developed collaboratively between the FACC and the Powell River Regional District Chair, Colin Palmer.

Service cuts vs traffic loss (21 KB pdf)

The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs have submitted to the provincial budget consultation the following document:

Coastal ferries: An unnecessary crisis  (588 KB pdf).

It is one of several ferry-related submissions to the committee responsible for the consultation, the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services.

The committee will release its report on the consultations on or before November 15, 2013. Updates on the committee’s work will be posted on the committee’s website.

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2012 12 12

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. Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2012 10 30

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2012 06 18

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.

Read More…

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.”

- 30 -

Contacts

Posted by: FACC | 2011 10 26

BC Ferries: let’s get back to basics

26 OCTOBER 2011 – The Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs (FACC) are telling the BC Ferry Commissioner that it is time for the ferry system to get back to basics. They want to see the Coastal Ferry Act amended to replace the existing six principles with one simple, customer-oriented principle: to provide a safe, reliable, affordable ferry service.

“Affordability means that fares should increase in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Instead, fare increases have been several times higher,” says Bill Cripps who chairs the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee. The FACC is recommending that government contributions be sufficiently increased in April 2012, to support a major roll-back in fares on the non-major routes.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2011 05 27

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2011 02 07

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2010 11 30

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2010 09 02

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.

Read More…

Posted by: FACC | 2010 05 05

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).

Read More…

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.”

Read More…

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.

Read More…

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