Residents of the province who rely on BC Ferries will be receiving significant relief on the cost of their rides beginning this spring.
The provincial government’s latest budget presented today by Minister of Finance Carole James announced fares will be frozen on all three major ferry routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island – Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Duke Point-Tsawassen, and Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay. This effectively cancels a previously planned 1.9% fare increase on the fares for these routes in early-April.
There will also be relief for all other non-major routes, with fares reduced by 15%. The provincial government says these reductions are important as about half of all passenger traffic occurs on routes other than the three major ferry routes.
Additionally, the 100% seniors’ discount for weekday travel between Monday and Thursday will be restored. This restores the free ride offer completely, which was reduced to a 50% discount in 2014.
“People who rely our coastal ferry system are also at a disadvantage. BC Ferries is part of our highway system. It should work for the people who use it,” said James during her speech.
“Ferry costs have skyrocketed, putting Islanders at a disadvantage that is both costly and unfair. Transportation and businesses are feeling the pinch too.”
Funding to cover the high costs of these frozen fares and discounts will be provided to BC Ferries by the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
All of these fare changes will go into effect on April 1, 2018.
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.