BC Ferries Commissioner Gord Macatee said Wednesday, Sept. 16, that fares will be capped at a 1.9 per cent per year increase between 2016 and 2020.
The increases are the lowest since 2003, according to Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who called the decision ‘good news’ for ferry users.
But Macatee said calls for rollbacks of fares on some routes were outside his authority.
“The commissioner notes that a great deal of work has gone into addressing fare affordability over the past four years,” said a statement from BC Ferries.
Macatee presented his decision in a report after conducting and independent review of the newest Coastal Ferry Services contract.
In May the Islands Trust – which represents the interests of islands between the B.C. mainland and south Vancouver Island – hired a public consulting firm to calculate what it would cost to lower fares on all minor ferry routes by 25 per cent.
Perrin Thorau & Associates estimated $11 million to $14 million, and Islands Trust Chair Peter Luckham said that would be money well spent.
He noted that since the enactment of the Coastal Ferries Act in 2003, fares on some minor routes have increased at a rate four to five times higher than inflation.
A 1.9 per cent per year fare increase over four years will not be welcome news.
“The Islands trust is concerned even higher fares may push ferry-dependent communities over a ‘tipping point’ that will damage economies and reduce ridership,” he said.
Todd, in response Macatee’s announcement, said BC Ferries must continue to look for ways to make fares affordable.
“There is more work for BC Ferries to do over the next four years to further reduce pressure on fares to ensure our coastal ferry service operates as efficiently and affordably as possible, well into the future,” he said.