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Letter - Ferry fare solutions
My first-year commerce micro-economics course (1967) covered elasticity of demand on public transit ridership sensitivity to fare increases.
At the time, the Toronto Transit Commission’s experience with fare increases in the 1960s demonstrated that as fares increase significantly, ridership decreases.
Overall revenue declined as modest fare increase thresholds were exceeded. The message was not new in 1967 nor is it since that time. BC Ferries fare increases have far exceeded any definition of “modest” and ignore proven economic transportation principles.
The BCF cost-recovery model has created a downwards revenue spiral through ongoing substantial rate increases.
The model ignores the economic principle that encouraging ridership through reasonable fares increases overall revenue. The model creates a false perception that the Gulf Islands route is not viable in its current form. Fares are the self-fulfilling root cause.
To offset travel costs to the detriment of overall revenues, residents and visitors reduce the number of vehicle and passenger trips, including day trips to Vancouver Island. Others minimize the use of the cafeteria.
Gulf Islands communities were created by the province; BCF provides transportation. The BCF fare model does not recognize the legitimacy of these communities. Public service requirements are not being adequately met by the province.
The broader result of declining ridership are the negative impacts on residents, businesses, visitors, property values, and Gulf Islands economies and communities.
These small communities are more vulnerable than large urban areas to transportation costs. There are no alternatives for access. Businesses and jobs are lost.
One option is to cap fares for two or more years to rectify current excessive fares and then increase the provincial subsidy annually commensurate with BCF cost increases to contain fares.
A second option is to follow the premier’s lead and implement a gas tax to subsidize BCF as an important mode of transportation. The premier’s and several mayors’ recent support for a $.02-per- litre gas tax for the Evergreen Translink extension is now a viable model. It seems to be acceptable for Evergreen-line affected communities, why not for Gulf Islands communities?
Alternatively, Gulf Islands property owners, who suffer from declining property values due to increased travel costs and decreased interest by prospective property owners, all seek a downward reassessment of property values.
This option is based on BC Assessment Authority principles that property taxes are based on assessed (market) value. This option would fairly shift some property tax burden off Gulf Islands properties onto the Capital Regional District’s Vancouver Island property owners. The property tax reduction would partially offset excessively high BCF fares.