Opinion

EDITORIAL: Ferries model could change

The review of the Coastal Ferry Act this week reminds us the Island has had an ever-evolving relationship with our transportation service to the mainland.

While many of B.C. Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee’s recommendations make sense for the short term, it’s also clear that it is time for a new vision.

In case you missed it, Macatee’s report said B.C. Ferries can’t continue down the path it’s on. With a massive debt looming on the near horizon, the company can’t afford to simply raise rates and potentially discourage more people from using the systems.

Ridership is already down as fares have jumped dramatically in the last decade and Macatee says increases will continue. With capital costs bearing down, the only options are to increase the cost to users, get the government to fork over an even higher subsidy, or cut service.

But that’s assuming B.C. Ferries keeps its current model.

Perhaps a better solution is to rethink what we want from our ferry service. Islanders make up a quarter of the province’s population and we are the main users of the ferry service.

Before the government established B.C. Ferries in 1960, passengers and freight were transported by various private concerns. In many ways, it was the age of the automobile that made the mini-ocean-liners and freighters previously employed obsolete.

Transporting people and their vehicles will still be the primary role for a ferry service, but there are options.

Many people who regularly travel to the mainland would choose a bare bones voyage if it meant paying less. Others have no problem coughing up more for higher service levels. There are also other options for travel.

Macatee’s review has started the ball rolling. It’s time to take that momentum and rethink the future of B.C. Ferries.

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