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For Immediate Release
Feb. 5, 2014
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
VICTORIA – The government of B.C. has reviewed the 2013 B.C. Coastal Ferries Engagement Summary Report, which was made public today.
The Province confirms $18.9 million in service reductions will be implemented beginning this spring to better align service levels to demand. Government also is proceeding with a reduction in the seniors’ discount, and will pursue a gaming pilot project.
These changes are in keeping with government’s vision of a coastal ferry system that is affordable, efficient and sustainable, while protecting basic services.
Taxpayers have provided an additional $86.6 million to BC Ferries to 2016 to help reduce the pressure on fares. That brings provincial and federal funding to over $200 million this year and to $1.7 billion over the last 10 years to support coastal ferry services. As well, BC Ferries is on track to find $54 million in efficiency improvements to 2016.
That leaves $18.9 million in net savings necessary over the next two years to meet the requirements under the current price cap. BC Ferries is reducing service on the minor and northern routes, which will account for $14 million in net savings. These service adjustments will be implemented beginning April 28.
BC Ferries will meet with designated community representatives to refine the schedules on the affected minor and northern routes, taking into account the community input received during engagement. For example, on some routes, there are opportunities to eliminate mid-day sailings in favour of retaining early morning or late evening sailings. The final schedules will be made public by the end of March.
BC Ferries will also implement further changes to the major routes (Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen to Duke Point and Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay) prior to April 2016 to achieve $4.9 million in savings. BC Ferries will be undertaking the analysis to develop these potential service reductions. Minor and northern routes will not be affected by these changes.
With respect to Route 40, government and BC Ferries are responding to issues raised by Bella Coola residents during the engagement by expanding the summer connector service. This service between Bella Coola and Bella Bella will increase from one sailing per week to three to four sailings per week in the summer, using the MV Nimpkish. This will also help mitigate the tourism impacts while the industry develops new options for circle tours.
Effective April 1, seniors (65 and older) travelling Monday to Thursday on major and minor routes will pay a half-price passenger fare. Currently, B.C. taxpayers cover the full cost of their passenger fare. Government will continue to provide the same level of funding to BC Ferries. The additional revenue from seniors’ passenger fares will help reduce pressure for future fare increases, benefitting all ferry users. Seniors currently pay full price for their vehicle, and will continue to do so.
Government is pursuing a gaming pilot project on one of BC Ferries’ major routes and revenues would be directed to reduce pressure on future fare increases.
More than 3,700 people participated in public meetings during the engagement process that ended last December, with 2,300 feedback forms and over 1,300 written submissions received by government.
Long term, the Government of B.C. and BC Ferries will continue to explore strategies to support an affordable and sustainable ferry system beyond 2016. This will include looking at standardized and no-frills vessels, LNG propulsion, other alternative technologies, a new reservation and point-of-sale system, increased operational efficiencies and seeking federal infrastructure funding to renew the fleet and terminals.
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Todd Stone ─
“We are making these tough decisions today in the interest of the taxpayers of B.C., and for the future of the coastal ferry service and the communities they serve.”
“Better alignment of service levels to the demand, while protecting basic levels of service, is necessary to ensure a coastal ferry service that’s affordable, efficient and sustainable for future generations.”
BC Ferry commissioner Gordon Macatee ─
“All of the principle stakeholders – users, taxpayers and the ferry operator – need to be part of the solution in order to achieve a ferry system that is affordable and financially sustainable. Improvements to capacity utilization of the ferry system and new sources of revenue can be expected to reduce pressure on fares in future.”
The summary report on the 2013 B.C. Coastal Ferries Community Engagement is available at:www.coastalferriesengagement.ca
For information on the BC Ferry Commission, visit: http://www.bcferrycommission.com
Two backgrounders follow.
Government Communications and Public Engagement
Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure
Guiding principles to keep BC Ferries sustainable
The government of B.C. is charting a new course for our coastal ferries’ future. The guiding principles behind all future decisions to affect coastal ferry service will be based on an affordable, efficient and sustainable system which protects basic service to coastal communities for future generations.
Affordable responds to the top priority expressed in the public engagement process.
The B.C. government will take actions so that ferry fare increases trend toward the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
Efficient describes a ferry system that embraces innovation, adopts new and emerging technologies, continues to find operational efficiencies, and strives for continuous improvement. Examples of initiatives currently underway or being explored at BC Ferries include the use of a cable ferry serving Denman Island, the use of liquefied natural gas to fuel vessels and a new reservation and point-of-sale system to improve customer service.
Sustainable speaks to a commitment to ensure that future generations have safe, reliable transportation connections to coastal communities. Standardizing vessels for greater interoperability, more “no frills vessels”, and seeking federal infrastructure funding to renew the fleet all contribute to a sustainable system.
These guiding principles are a framework for BC Ferries and the BC ferry commissioner as they consider and implement changes to increase operational efficiencies and develop and implement long-term capital plans. It is a long-term vision that will help ensure that coastal ferry services are affordable, efficient and sustainable for future generations.
The Province and BC Ferries will continue to explore a set of strategies to create an affordable and sustainable system beyond 2016. Many of these strategies were included for consideration or were raised in the 2012 engagement and include:
· Standardize vessels and use more “no frills vessels” on smaller routes.
· Move to liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel propulsion.
· Consider alternative ferry technologies.
· Modify the reservation and point-of-sale system to improve utilization and improve customer service.
· Seek additional operational efficiencies.
· Seek new revenue sources (e.g., gaming).
· Seek federal infrastructure funding to renew the fleet and terminals.
· Review service needs when making significant capital expenditures for terminals and vessels.
· Passenger-only vessels.
Public input has helped shape coastal ferries’ future
May 1, 2011: Gordon Macatee appointed the new BC ferry commissioner, replacing Martin Crilly, who had served since 2003.
May 24, 2011: In response to a request by Macatee, the Government of British Columbia introduced legislation to support the commissioner’s review of the province’s coastal ferry system in light of public concern about rising ferry fares.
Jan. 24, 2012: Macatee delivered his review of the Coastal Ferry Act, following a comprehensive public consultation process which included over 40 meetings with approximately 2,000 participants. The key themes that emerged from the consultation were affordability, accountability and financial sustainability.
May 9, 2012: In response to the independent BC ferry commissioner’s review, government introduced amendments to the Coastal Ferry Act. In addition, government increased its funding to BC Ferries through 2016, and asked BC Ferries to find additional savings through efficiencies.
Oct. 29, 2012: The Government of B.C. began a public consultation and engagement process on the future of coastal ferry service in British Columbia, to inform decisions about service adjustments, and to get public input on strategies to support a long-term vision for the service.
March 5, 2013: The report summarizing the consultation was released. Over the eight weeks, senior ministry staff hosted 40 public consultation meetings in 30 communities, along with one webinar. More than 2,000 people attended the public meetings and almost 2,000 feedback forms and written submissions were received.
Nov. 18, 2013: The Government of B.C. announced a second public engagement process. The purpose was to seek input on measures that are intended to maintain a sustainable ferry service while minimizing the rate of future fare increases through a combination of service adjustments, a reduction in the senior’s discount, and a potential new revenue source.
Feb. 5, 2014: The report summarizing the 2013 B.C. Coastal Ferries Engagement was released, and government announced its decision on service level adjustments and other changes that will help ensure the coastal ferry system is affordable, efficient and sustainable, while protecting basic services.