Letters to the Editor

Does one BC Ferries hand know what other is doing?

Dear editor,

When considering the state of BC Ferries, one is moved to question whether the right hand knows what the left is doing and vice versa.

Have they even been introduced?

BCFC’s right and left hands are a corporate structure comprising two principal sections, operations and engineering.

The operations side, responsible for the crushing fare increases of the past decade, is now the author of the draconian service cuts that will be implemented in spring 2014 along with yet another round of fare increases.

Regular ferry users know what this course will mean: Ridership inevitably goes down when schedules are reduced and fares go up. Even keeping ridership static at present levels would have to be regarded as a major win for BCFC.

Meanwhile, the engineering side beavers away, industriously developing plans for infrastructure work as if there was not a cloud in the financial sky and ridership was steadily increasing.

To cite but one small example of this disconnect, consider the matter of a new Denman West terminal that is to be part and parcel of the reckless scheme to build the world’s longest cable ferry run as a “cost-saving” measure (FYI—projected cost for the project has already doubled, obviating any putative savings, before the real work has even started).

Perhaps because there are so many penetrating but unanswered questions about the operational and financial viability of this scheme, little attention is being paid to the mindlessly open-handed ways of BCFC’s engineering division.

BCFC is proposing to build a seawall and then backfill behind it to create an area large enough for a 50-car parking lot as part of the new terminal.

Ferry traffic on Denman has always parked on the long hill leading down to the landing. Decades of that practice has never produced any problems other than on the handful of days a year, usually long weekends, when there is some minor confusion if the lineup sometimes extends past the intersection at the top of the hill.

In fact, significant money was spent recently by Highways to add a proper third lane to the ferry hill to better accommodate this manner of waiting for the ferry.

But, the prospect of a ridership rate that will be somewhere between static and dwindling notwithstanding, BCFC’s engineering boffins propose to spend what will no doubt be several millions expanding a terminal to accommodate illusory higher traffic volumes.

Meanwhile, the operations side is preparing to cut sailings by 15 per cent — that’s one in seven — to complement the huge increase in fares we have endured in the past decade.

So here we are, with operations pursuing a cheese-paring austerity while engineering proposes to spray money around the way racecar drivers spray champagne after a victory.

Where is coherent and accountable management? How can BCFC executives even pretend they have a viable plan for the future of the service when it is clear that the two major branches of the corporation are not on the same page?

Is this yet another example of the sort of mess that arises when bureaucratic empire-builders are not restrained by a coherent and consistent management plan? Are the top BCFC executives too preoccupied with cashing those munificent paycheques to deal with the absurd, out-of-sync plans of their subordinates?

Robert French,

Denman Island

 

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