The FAC’s survey aimed at gauging reaction to a range of alternative schedule options closed on October 31 with a total of 590 responses. Almost 1,000 narrative comments were received explaining why individuals preferred one option over another, or the problems that would be caused to them if one or other option was implemented. We have spent some considerable time analysing the responses and are now drafting a report from the FAC to BC Ferries.
The headline results indicate that the highest proportion of respondents (36%) expressed a preference for Option 1; 31% for Option 2 and 28% for Option 3. 5% of respondents indicated that they preferred to keep the existing schedule than have any of the three options imposed. We acknowledge that as we didn’t include a ‘do nothing’ option among the alternatives presented to the community, we have no accurate data to show how strong the preference for maintaining the status quo really is.
We are now working through the narrative responses to review the reasons cited as benefits or problems associated with each of the alternative schedule options and we will be using that information to evaluate whether there is a preferred course of action that the FAC can support. We have asked BC Ferries for further information to assist us in that process.
It’s important to recognise that this consultation was initiated by the Ferry Advisory Committee and not by BC Ferries. Since the government forced service cuts in April, vehicle traffic on our ferry route has fallen by 5.5% and passenger traffic by almost 4%. That’s not all down to the service cuts, of course, as rising fares and the imposition of a half fare for BC Seniors have both had an impact as well. But that’s the case on every ferry route – and we do know that on similar routes where there hasn’t been a service cut, traffic has only dropped by about 1%.
We all know that the ferry service this summer has suffered from poor reliability and many more overloads. What is not clear is whether, after taking lost revenue into account, the reduction in costs achieved on Route 19 has delivered the net financial savings that were required by government. Further changes made to the ferry schedule in September have addressed some of the reliability problems, but they were only a partial fix. If the net savings are not achieved, then we can expect more cuts to be imposed by government – and the FAC’s intervention sought to ensure that the potential impact on the community would fully understood before any further corrective action was proposed.
The FAC aims to issue a full report on the findings of the survey within the next two weeks. There is no doubt that whatever changes are made, there will be some people who will benefit and some who will be disadvantaged. If the FAC is to endorse any of the options, then we need to be certain that the wider benefit to the community outweighs the impact on any particular group of people. If that certainty isn’t there, then we will not be making a specific recommendation.
We acknowledge that responsibility for the final determination of the ferry schedule lies with BC Ferries and not with the Ferry Advisory Committee, however we will continue to press for an outcome that we believe will be most acceptable to the community