Ferry commissioner’s report released
BC Ferry Commissioner Gordon Macatee’s review of the Coastal Ferry Act — a 90-plus page document that among other things considers affordability and sustainability of ferries — was released Tuesday.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Blair Lekstrom said the key to the report was the manner in which information was compiled from public input, especially from coastal communities.
"We went down this path to have a good ferry system," Lekstrom said Tuesday, noting an apparent gap between affordability and sustainability.
The report contains 24 recommendations stemming from 40 meetings in 27 communities involving about 2,000 people. After digesting the document, Lekstrom will confer with colleagues and Macatee before taking action.
Last year, BC Ferries announced plans to cut up to 400 sailings to deal with a $35-million deficit. Cuts were not planned for smaller routes such as the Gulf Islands.
Passenger trips had dropped to a 20-year low and vehicle traffic to an 11-year low.
Former BC Ferries CEO David Hahn — who resigned from his million-dollar post in September — blamed the decreases on rising fuel costs, a slow economy and a strong Canadian dollar. Others blamed the hike in ferry rates.
Key recommendations in Macatee’s review include:
1. future price cap increases should be held to the rate of inflation;
2. capacity utilization of the ferry fleet should be improved;
3. the commissioner should have more explicit authority to hold the operator accountable, and a new authority to conduct performance audits;
4. there should be more oversight on capital plans and acquisitions;
5. the province should consider an increase in financial support for the ferry system and should further consider cushioning at least a portion of fuel price volatility, as is done on northern routes;
6. municipal and regional governments should have the ability to play a role in keeping fares affordable and increasing ridership;
7. BC Ferries should place a high priority on upgrading its reservation and point-of-sale systems; and
8. the commissioner should have additional tools when setting price caps to better consider the interests of ferry users and taxpayers.
For more information and to review the report, check www.bcferrycommission.com.