Our ferries are sailing into a foggy future, and that’s not good enough for communities that rely on those boats.
MLAs, we’re told, are out and about this autumn talking to British Columbians, but one Island MLA has decided to buck the trend and go talk to Americans. Claire Trevena, the NDP’s transportation critic, is out at sea this week in and around Washington State on an information-gathering tour of that ferry systerm.
She may be well-intentioned, but she’s sure to have packed along some partisanship, too, and will remind anyone who’s willing to listen about B.C. Ferries’ executive bonuses. (The fat cats are an easy target, but considering the corporation’s finances, criticisms are justified.)
So what will Trevena see aboard the MV Issaquah as it navigates Puget Sound? Fact finding on the Washington ferries isn’t a new idea. It was less than two years ago that the B.C. Ferry Commission released its Review of the Coastal Ferry Act. That report looked at ferry models around the world and included analysis of Washington State Ferries. It concluded what Trevena and the NDP already know – ferry fares there are cheaper, executive pay is lower and bonuses are nonexistent.
There’s a tradeoff – B.C. is further ahead in vessel procurement and upkeep; we have renovated terminals and better amenities on our ships.
Absolutely, ferry rides here are becoming unaffordable. But it may be that both systems are unsustainable in their present forms. In both jurisdictions, ferry rates are rising, ridership is down, and the reports basically just recommend increasing government subsidies.
Can we find answers in America? It should be noted that Washington State Ferries, when it conducted its most recent report, did its fact finding in B.C.
The portholes there might be just as foggy as the ones here, but it’s incumbent upon us to keep peering out in search of answers, anyway. Island communities depend on it.