The BC Ferry Coalition delivered 400 letters to Premier Christy Clark on January 4 while the next day, the B.C. Coastal Ferries Engagement Summary Report, was made public and the BC government announced that they will pursue the reduction in services beginning this spring along with reduction of senior's fares and a gaming pilot project in order to save $18.9 million
The government stated, "These changes are in keeping with government's vision of a coastal ferry system that is affordable, efficient and sustainable, while protecting basic services."
Jef Keighley, chair of the BC Ferry Coalition, said the delegation of about a dozen people from the Sunshine Coast were joined at Clark's Vancouver Cabinet offices by Garry Nohr, Chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District and Jim Abrams, Chair of the Strathcona Regional District on Vancouver Island. (L to R) BC Ferry Coalition Chair Jef Keighley, Strathcona Regional District Chair Jim Abrams and Gary Nohr Sunshine Coast Regional District Chair.
After a press conference at Canada Place, Keighley said the delegation "went to the UBCM Rural District Chairs meeting of about 100 and got a very good reception. Jim Abrams got them all onside to write to Christy to express their support for coastal communities and insist on fair treatment". Keighley says they are not done yet.
"We are full speed ahead to organize a huge protest rally on the lawn of the Legislature on Tuesday, March 11 from 11:30 to 1:30 pm and then on to simultaneous community rallies on Saturday, March 15th".
Sunshine Coast residents with the 400 letters. Jef Keighley delivers letters to Clark.
Taxpayers have provided an additional $86.6 million to BC Ferries to 2016 to help reduce the pressure on fares. That brings provincial and federal funding to over $200 million this year and to $1.7 billion over the last 10 years to support coastal ferry services. As well, BC Ferries is on track to find $54 million in efficiency improvements to 2016 stated the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
Seniors will begin paying 50% of the passenger fare on Mondays thru Thursdays on April 1. This is a change from the free fare on those days for seniors. The schedule changes on certain routes will begin on April 28. Final schedules will be made public at the end of March, after more consultation with community representatives.
The Province and BC Ferries will continue to explore other options including many that were included for consideration or were raised in the 2012 engagement:
- 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.