Ferry Update - April 29, 2011

Ferry Update - April 29, 2011

Posted in:
Subject: [sipoa] ferry news
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 2011 15:08:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Susan Jamieson-McLarnon <jamieson@sfu.ca>
Reply-To: sipoa@yahoogroups.com
To: sipoa@yahoogroups.com



Ferry Lines

As promised in the April Scribbler dispatch…. An update on the April 13 meeting of the Southern Gulf Islands Ferry Advisory Committee.

Ferry Fares

Of key interest was the preliminary fare increase caps proposed by the Ferry Commissioner for Performance Term 3 (April 2012 to March 2016). The fare increase cap is the maximum the average fare is allowed to increase every year. The proposed fare caps are:
- 4.15 per cent for the major routes (18 per cent over four years), and
- 8.23 per cent for the minor routes (includes the Gulf Islands; 37 per cent

over four years).

If these numbers are confirmed by the provincial government the cost for a car and driver (without an Experience card) travelling on the weekend, to go from Saturna to Swartz Bay and return, now $45.65, will rise to $62.54 in 2015. For the mainland traveller, Tsawwassen-Saturna, return, the number will rise from today’s $119.85 to $164.19. (Plus any applicable taxes and surcharges, of course.)

These fares assume the province will continue to contribute the same amount ($92 million annually, unchanged since 2003) and that service levels will be maintained. Full details are available at the commission website, www.bcferrycommission.com .

There are a number of uncertainties in the numbers: BCF has until April 30 to appeal annual expense cuts of $18 million dollars that the commission factored into the fare cap. If BCF's appeal is successful the fare cap will increase. The company has until May 31 to present a new traffic forecast reflecting the continuing decline in traffic. (The FAC considers this to have a clear link to fare increases.) If the forecast reflects this decline, the fare cap may be forced even higher.

If you are concerned about fare increases you may wish to send a letter to BC’s transportation minister, Blair Lekstrom, minister.transportation@gov.bc.ca or
PO Box 9055, Stn N, Provincial Government, Victoria, BC, V8W 9E2,
and to the BCFerry Commissioner at info@bcferrycommission.com or
BC Ferry Commission, RPO Hillside, Box 35119, Victoria, BC, V8T 5G2.

Copies to your MLA/s (on and off island, if that applies) and to the Saturna FAC reps (listed below) will be appreciated.

This is the first time the minister and the commission have asked for feedback on the fare cap. Now’s the time to tell them what it means to you. If they don’t hear from islanders they may assume we are just fine with the proposals. The deadline is June 30.

Other items:

Among the cost-saving ideas BCF put on the table for discussion by the province and the commission was abandonment or realignment of Route 9 (Tsawwassen to SGI). This is topical as the Queen of Nanaimo is slated for replacement in 2015/16. The consensus of the SGI FAC and the SSI FAC is that Route 9 will continue to operate in one form or another, although not necessarily always out of Long Harbour. BCF has suggested a sub-committee to consider viability of a number of scheduling proposals, with representation from each of the SG islands, SSI and BCF.

Keeping up appearances…. The Mayne Queen’s cosmetic refit has rated a thumbs-down by many travellers who will be pleased to know that cushions are coming for the metal chairs. The rationale for the interior reno is that individual seating is more efficient than the benches meant for three but often occupied by just one or two.

Are we there yet?.... The times when Routes 9 and 5 come closest to on-time performance (measured by departure from either Tsawwassen or Swartz Bay) is when they traditionally have the least traffic – January-February. It’s very tough for these vintage vessels to handle the demands of the spring-summer-fall traffic.

BCF has agreed to an FAC request to maintain the Route 5 commercial fare freeze for a second year. This is paid for by a “pennies per trip” increase on non-commercial fares. The commercial fare freeze also benefits drivers of non-commercial vehicles over 20 ft as the commercial rate applies to the extra length.

Joining the ferry advisory committee… The current committee’s term ends December 31, 2011. BCF will be advertising in the fall for applicants who may wish to be on the committee for the following three years. FAC terms of reference are being reviewed.

Looking for a printed summer schedule? BCF is discontinuing the printed all-routes schedule brochure June 30. But they will be printing one that covers the complex routes that affect the SGI and Salt Spring. (This reduces BCF’s printing/distribution bill by about $200,000). The SGI FAC lobbied hard to have some form of hard-copy schedule available and they've agreed. Copies will be available on the ferries and in the terminals and a PDF version will be as close as the nearest internet-connected computer. The SGIFAC will be sent the draft version for comment.

"We don't have a problem with them dropping the all-routes brochure if there is a meaningful saving,” says Brian Hollingshead, chair of the SGIFAC. “However, it is absolutely vital that they provide a printed version of our local schedules. They listened, and agreed to provide a simpler format schedule for the routes that serve the Southern Gulf Islands and Salt Spring Island. Anything less would have been simply unacceptable."

Comments Please......The next meeting of the Southern Gulf Islands ferry advisory committee is planned for late October. If there are any comments, ideas or suggestions you have in the meantime pass them along to your FAC members Michel Bourassa, rmbourassa@gmail.com, Ian Warren, ianonsaturna@gmail.com or Susan Jamieson-McLarnon, jamieson@sfu.ca.

Thanks to Brian Hollingshead for comprehensive notes.