MAY 21, 2015 – The Ferry Advisory Committee chairs were pleased, and surprised, with the announcement of the 1.9% preliminary fare cap. Surprised, because with a nominal 2% inflationary increase in expenses, and the substantial capital program, we were expecting a much higher cap. Given the ground rules – existing service levels and assumed continuance of FY2016 service fee – we realize getting to a 1.9% fare cap was a major achievement. Any further reduction that might be considered between April and June would require additional accommodation.
Sustainability, the term, is borrowed from environmental science referring to ‘endurance of systems and processes’. We hear it referred to in terms of sustainability of the coastal ferry service, as if BC Ferries is in danger of no longer ‘enduring’. This seems to us like wondering if UBC or BC Transit or VGH or the Coquihalla Highway will ‘endure’. In fact, we believe that all four of those, as well as BC Ferries, will (and must) endure, hopefully in good health. That good health will depend primarily on adequate funding from governments and ‘customers’. All five are vital elements of the broad community infrastructure. The demise of any is inconceivable.
We are more concerned with the economic sustainability of the ferry-dependent communities served by the Minor and Northern routes, and Route 3. The ferry service is the economic life-line for these communities.
Over the past decade, we have seen the micro-economies of our once-vibrant communities slowly but steadily wither. Death by a thousand cuts. We, and local business operators, believe the rapid rise of ferry fares to unprecedented and unaffordable levels (Attachment 1) is the primary cause of the decline of most of our local economies. While the communities will likely remain on the maps, their economic sustainability is in grave danger.
Economic sustainability of coastal communities absolutely must be assessed and included in any future plans for coastal ferry service. Adequate funding and service levels must be factored into any vision that values adequate, affordable life-line transportation to and from coastal communities. – Read more