BC Ferries Cuts Service Levels on Salt Spring

VICTORIA - The government of B.C. is charting a new course for our coastal ferries' future. The guiding principles behind all future decisions to affect the coastal ferry service will be based on an affordable, efficient and sustainable system which protects basic service to coastal communities for future generations.

Routes affected:

Vesuvius Harbour - Crofton
Annual utilization rate: 35.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 5,046
Annual round trip reductions: 605 (12 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $210,000

Tsawwassen - Southern Gulf Islands
Annual utilization rate: 42.2 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 830
Annual round trip reductions: schedule change only; no round trip reductions
Estimated net savings to 2016: $180,000

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.

Through the government of B.C., taxpayers have provided an additional $86.6 million to 2016 to help reduce the pressure on fares. That brings B.C. taxpayer funding to more than $180 million this year and to nearly $1.4 billion over the last 10 years to support coastal ferry services.

In addition, BC Ferries has committed to find $54 million in efficiency improvements to 2016, $15 million more than the target set by the BC Ferry Commissioner, and is on track to meet this challenge.

In the medium term, the government of B.C. is protecting taxpayers' significant investment and addressing the pressure for higher fares by implementing a combination of service adjustments, a reduction in the senior's discount, and a potential new revenue source.

$18.9 million in net savings are necessary over the next two years to meet the requirements under the current price cap. To accomplish that, BC Ferries will undertake service reductions to be implemented in two phases.

The first phase is service reductions to lower-use round trip sailings on the minor routes, and on the higher-cost northern routes, accounting for $14 million in net savings. These service adjustments will be implemented in April 2014.

BC Ferries will also implement further changes to the major routes prior to April 2016 to achieve $4.9 million in savings. Minor and northern routes will not be affected by these changes.

In addition, as a major capital investment is considered for Horseshoe Bay, analysis will continue on opportunities to achieve additional savings and efficiencies beyond the initial $4.9 million in reductions announced today, on the major routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland, particularly Route 2 (Departure Bay - Horseshoe Bay ) and Route 30 (Duke Point - Tsawwassen). Analysis will continue of opportunities to achieve additional savings and efficiencies on Southern Gulf Island routes.

As of April 1, 2014, the current 100 per cent passenger fare discount received by B.C. seniors (65 and older) travelling Monday to Thursday will be reduced to 50 per cent on major and minor routes. There will be no change to the current 33 per cent discount offered to seniors on the northern routes. The provincial savings of approximately $6 million per year will be redirected to support general fares.

The government of B.C. is also considering the introduction of a pilot project to assess the viability of gaming, and is seeking feedback on introducing gaming as a permanent revenue-generating program on major routes between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. The pilot project would be implemented on BC Ferries' busiest route between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. If successful, gaming revenue would help reduce the pressure on fares with net revenues reinvested into the ferry system to support general fares.

Starting this week, a new round of community engagement gets underway, so that ferry users and other British Columbians can comment on these planned changes. Details of this engagement are available at www.coastalferriesengagement.ca

Looking forward, the government of B.C. and BC Ferries will continue to explore strategies to create an affordable and sustainable ferry system beyond 2016. This will include looking at standardized and no-frills vessels, LNG propulsion, other alternative technologies, passenger only vessels, fixed links, a new reservation and point-of-sale system, increased operational efficiencies and seeking federal infrastructure funding to renew the fleet and terminals.

Quotes:

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone -

"The B.C. coastal ferry service has been wrestling with cost pressures for more than 20 years. We are making tough decisions today to ensure that our coastal ferry service is sustainable for future generations. These changes protect basic service levels and are in keeping with the fiscal realities facing provincial taxpayers."

BC Ferry Commissioner Gordon Macatee -

"I'm supportive of service adjustments which will improve capacity utilization in the ferry system, in keeping with the recommendations in my report of 2012. All of the principle stakeholders - government, BC Ferries and ferry users - need to be part of the solution in order to achieve an affordable and financially sustainable ferry system."

Learn More:

For the Discussion Guide and more information, visit www.coastalferriesengagement.ca

Three backgrounders follow.

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BACKGROUNDER

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's a long-term vision that will help ensure our 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.
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BACKGROUNDER

Service adjustments to specific coastal ferry routes

The Province has set an objective of $18.9 million in total net savings to be achieved through service reductions by 2016. The prime focus is on lower-use round trip sailings on the minor routes, and on the higher-cost northern routes, accounting for $14 million in net savings. These service adjustments will be implemented in 2014.

BC Ferries will also be implementing further changes to the major routes prior to April 2016 (Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay, Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen to Duke Point) to achieve $4.9 million in savings by 2016. Minor and northern routes will not be affected by these changes.

In addition, analysis will continue on opportunities to achieve additional savings and efficiencies, beyond the initial $4.9 million in reductions announced today, on the major routes, particularly Route 2 (Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay) and Route 30 (Duke Point to Tsawwassen). Analysis will continue of opportunities to achieve additional savings and efficiencies on Southern Gulf Island routes.

Routes affected:

Langdale - Horseshoe Bay
Annual utilization rate: 54.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 2,985
Annual round trip reductions: 40 (1.3 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $200,000

Vesuvius Harbour - Crofton
Annual utilization rate: 35.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 5,046
Annual round trip reductions: 605 (12 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $210,000

Earls Cove - Saltery Bay
Annual utilization rate: 26.3 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 2,878
Annual round trip reduction: 365 (12.7 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $750,000

Horseshoe Bay - Bowen Island
Annual utilization rate: 50.7 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 5,569
Annual round trip reductions: 234 (4.2 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $270,000

Tsawwassen - Southern Gulf Islands
Annual utilization rate: 42.2 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 830
Annual round trip reductions: schedule change only; no round trip reductions
Estimated net savings to 2016: $180,000

Port Hardy - Prince Rupert
Annual utilization rate: 39 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 122
Annual round trip reductions: 39 (32 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $3,820,000

Skidegate - Prince Rupert
Annual utilization rate: 42.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 191
Annual round trip reductions: 52 (27.2 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $1,900,000

Comox - Powell River
Annual utilization rate: 29.6 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 1,460
Annual round trip reductions: 94 (6.4 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $720,000

Texada Island - Powell River
Annual utilization rate: 25.6 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 3,648
Annual round trip reductions: 834 (22.9 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $950,000

Gabriola Island - Nanaimo Harbour
Annual utilization rate: 45.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 5,732
Annual round trip reductions: 834 (14.5 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $800,000

Chemainus - Thetis - Penelakut
Annual utilization rate: 29.1 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 4,380
Annual round trip reductions: 417 (9.5 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $160,000

Buckley Bay - Denman Island
Annual utilization rate: 41.2 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 6,149
Annual round trip reductions: 888 (14.4 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $660,000

Hornby Island - Denman Island
Annual utilization rate: 38.1 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 4,482
Annual round trip reductions: 422 (9.4 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $360,000

Quadra Island - Campbell River
Annual utilization rate: 41.9 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 6,253
Annual round trip reductions: 468 (7.5 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $370,000

Skidegate - Alliford Bay
Annual utilization rate: 20.2 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 4,482
Annual round trip reductions: 1,564 (34.9 per cent)
Estimated net savings to 2016: $1,200,000

Port Hardy - Mid Coast - Bella Coola (summer only)
Annual utilization rate: 29.5 per cent
Annual contracted round trips: 39
Annual round trip reductions: route to be cancelled
Estimated net savings to 2016: $1,450,000

Salt Spring News

By Salt Spring News

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November 18, 2013 11:52 AM

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