Fares across many routes on BC Ferries have been lowered or frozen effective this week.
In a release issued today, the ferry corporation say fares on the three major routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island – Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo, Tsawassen-Swartz Bay, and Tsawwassen-Duke Point – are frozen.
As well, 21 northern and inter-island routes, including Horseshoe Bay-Langdale, have seen their fares reduced by an average of 15%.
These measures cancel a previous plan to hike fares by 1.9% at the start of this month.
Additionally, the BC seniors’ passenger discount has been increased from 50% to 100% for travel between Monday and Thursday, excluding holiday Mondays, on major and inter-island routes.
The move follows through the provincial government’s recent budget promise of lowering and freezing fares across the ferry network.
The fare changes and cancellation of the planned fare hike will cost $98 million, which is funded by subsidies of $59 million by the provincial government and $39 million by the ferry corporation.
“We are focused on the affordability of ferry travel. Our present financial position allows us to use some of our net earnings to reduce fares for our customers.” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries’ President and CEO. “This major additional contribution by the Province expands efforts to improve affordability.”
It remains to be seen whether the reduced fares will lead to substantially higher traffic levels, which could lead to congestion, delays, and sailing waits.
There has been a surge in ridership on the ferry network over the past few years. In the last fiscal year, BC Ferries recorded 8.3 million vehicles and 21 million passengers – levels that have not been seen in about a decade. These figures are also 6.6% and 9.2% higher than the slump in 2014.
Over the coming decade, BC Ferries estimates it will need to spend a total of $500 million on retrofits of terminals that serve major routes, especially Horseshoe Bay, Swartz Bay, and Tsawwassen.