The Flying Shingle
BC Ferries ‘compare and contrast’
Reviewing Wilson’s report on BC’s ferries
Monday, November 25, 2013
Click for larger photo
Click for larger photo
Fare increases for car and passenger on selected coastal ferry routes, 1987-2012.

In his January 2013 report on Fiscal Fairness for Ferry-Dependent Communities, Gordon Wilson, former BC Liberal leader and one-time transportation and ferries minister, compares two ferry services in British Columbia.
One, the Skeena Queen, was built in 1996 at a cost of $21 million dollars. It can carry 100 cars and 600 passengers on a 35-minute crossing with a crew of seven. It has limited passenger accommodation and the only catering available is vending machines.
The other, the Osprey 2000, was completed in 2000 at a cost of $24.6 million. It can carry 80 cars and 250 passengers on a 35-minute crossing with a crew of five. It has three areas of passenger accommodation and full catering services.
Although the costs of running these two ferries is almost identical, at the time the report was written, the cost of travelling on the Skeena Queen was $43.15 plus taxes for car and driver and $10.90 per adult passenger, while travelling on the Osprey 2000 is free.
The Skeena Queen is a coastal ferry operated by the BC Ferries Corporation between Swartz Bay and Salt Spring Island.
The Osprey 2000 is a freshwater ferry operated by the British Columbia Transportation and Finance Authority (BCTFA) between Balfour and Kootenay Bay. As a crown corporation, the BCTFA is mandated to “acquire, construct, hold, and improve transportation infrastructure... (It) is obliged to take full responsibility for providing services to the general public by holding and improving the infrastructure over their useful lives.”
Wilson makes the point that both crown corporations (BC Ferries and BCTFA) were established under the BC Toll Highways and Bridges Authority, which, as the name suggests, recognised that tolls might be required to recover some of the capital costs of various infrastructure projects, including highways, bridges, and  ferries.
The 14 ferry routes operating in the interior of British Columbia are considered part of the highway network, as ferries from the Lower Mainland to Victoria and Nanaimo were once identified as extensions of Highways 1 and 17. As Wilson writes: “The operational imperative for the inland ferries is the same as that of the coastal ferries, with the exception of the ticket prices charged for coastal ferries”.
Given that Gabriolans and other Gulf Islanders are paying for the inland ferries through our provincial taxes, Wilson asks: Is this fair?

Gabriola percentages
Wilson’s report also contains a chart of fare increases on 10 coastal ferry routes from 1987 to 2012. During that period the cost of travelling on the Gabriola ferry increased by 437 per cent. Only two of the 10 routes had higher percentage increases (Tsawwassen to Gulf Islands and Skidegate to Alliford Bay).
A key factor BC Ferries identified in its service cuts is the “annual utilisation rate” (AUR) on coastal ferries.
According to Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure figures, the Quinsam’s utilisation rate is 45.5 per cent, which merits a 14.5 per cent service reduction.
Meanwhile, the Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Island route, with utilisation of 42.2 per cent will have no trip reductions.

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