Gord Macatee, BC Ferries commissioner, delivered his review of the Coastal Ferry Act in January 2012.
The report contained 24 major recommendations for government, BC Ferries, ferry users and other stakeholders, all intended to better balance the interests of ferry users with the financial sustainability of BC Ferries.
The review clearly indicated that all of the principle stakeholders will need to be part of the solution to achieve a ferry system that is both affordable and financially sustainable.
One area I want to focus on here is the decline in ridership statistics, which I gleaned from the BC Ferries website. The fiscal year ends on March 31.
For the 2010 fiscal year, total vehicles (on the entire BC Ferries system) was 8,252,489 and total passengers was 21,037,169. For 2011: 8,119,546 and 20,746,222; for 2012: 7,837,919 and 20,169,977 and for 2013: 7,748,743 vehicles and 19,919,096 passengers.
This is all occurring during a time of overall improvements in the economy. The obvious conclusion is that there is a problem with the strategies, management and running of BC Ferries.
The model that BC Ferries seems to be using seems is something along the line of, “If we build and upgrade the ferries and terminals, they will come.”
Well, wake up, BC Ferries — they are not coming but actually leaving in droves — half a million vehicles and over million passengers from some four years ago.
The current BC Ferries was created in 2003 but it is a monopoly in the true sense of the word. For example, with BC Hydro, we can find alternative sources of electricity: solar, generators or save/conserve electricity through various means.
The B.C. government fully subsidizes 14 inland (non-BC Ferries) routes and with some of those routes there are alternate routes people can choose to drive instead. However, with BC Ferries the only reasonable options (outside of flying) is to take the ferry and pay the ever-increasing prices or not to.
High ferry rates have reduced ridership. Rates are high because of the Cadillac service BC Ferries wants to provide. Management’s past policies and decisions have resulted in taking on unsustainable debt.
That is the basic reason for the planned massive service cuts and expected to continue future rate increases.
They have no one to blame but themselves. If BC Ferries truly was providing a good service coupled with reasonable ferry rates, then the ridership should be going up, not down.