BC Ferries

No one said fares are fair

Tickets for once a week travel on the 57-year-old 49-car ferry North Island Princess, between Powell River and Texada Island, for a car, driver and passenger, cost $1,634.49 a year, including frequent use discounts and current fuel rebate. There is no land-based alternative for the 35 minute, 5.1 mile crossing.

Tickets for once a week travel on the 6-year-old 80-car ferry Osprey, between Kootenay Bay and Balfour, for a car, driver and passenger, cost zero. The land-based alternative to the 35-minute, 5.5 mile crossing means a drive to Creston is 90 km longer.

For no apparent reason, provincial tax revenues pay 100% of operating costs of ferries that sail on fresh water and 20% of operating costs of ferries sailing on salt water. I’m not aware of any traffic counts published by the private operators of interior ferries but government has claimed the cost of serving inland crossings is around $20 million a year. In 2012, Vancouver Sun’s Pete McMartin reported it as $10 million. However, the actual expenditures of government for inland ferries is substantially higher. Public accounts for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 show the two main operators were paid over $72 million.

Here is a summary of charges faced by users of ferries on a handful of coastal and interior routes.

The following was first published September 2014:

A comment left by Lew on an earlier article deserves to be featured.

Here is Christy Clark, the premier of our province, speaking as a radio show host just before leaving to run for leadership of the BC Liberals:

“Ferry fares go up on Friday. It will be the eighth fare hike over the past five years, and this time BC Ferries says it needs to do it to find the money for rising fuel costs, and since the provincial government refuses to chip in, they’re dumping almost all of those new costs on users.

The impact of the new fare increases? Well, according to BC Ferries latest annual report, these unprecedented fares, as they say, could result in a decline in ferry traffic, and that’s a quote. No kidding! And I’m guessing that the fares have finally gotten so high that for every dollar they raise it will actually garner less in revenue. Higher fares mean fewer passengers, so the accountants will have to subtract paying customers from every new dollar they add to ticket prices, and at this rate how long will it be before they abandon the routes where they don’t make any money? How long before the provincial government abandons their responsibility to provide a public service to many of the people who depend on the ferries to travel and ship their goods?

Our transportation minister seems to have an insatiable appetite for funding highways if they require blacktop, and he seems perfectly at peace with providing free ferries on inland lakes in BC, but he doesn’t seem to have the same affection for our maritime highway on the coast.”

The audio clip can be found in the CKNW audio vault for September 24th, 2014 starting at 2:26 pm.

Contrast her comments then with what her transportation minister is now telling the UBCM in the face of their report demonstrating that what radio host Clark said was valid and quite prescient.

“Our government has no plans to roll back any service adjustments that were made,” said Stone. “We have no plans to interfere in the independent process respecting rates, certainly for the rate increase that the B.C. ferry commissioner has set for next year.”

All that I wish to add is an audio clip of Clark’s remarks. It is from Mike Eckford’s show on CKNW, September 24.


A year and a half ago, after Liberals asked Vaughn Palmer to explain why inland and coastal ferries were not comparable, this is the Sun newspaper photograph used as an example of an inland ferry:

Do you think this vessel consumed much of the $72+ million spent on fresh water ferries in 2013-2014?

Categories: BC Ferries

13 replies »

  1. Oh oh! Instead of reducing coastal ferry rates you've drawn their attention to a money grabbing chance to nail interior ferry rates. (They are so wrapped up in LNG and Site C that they most likely aren't aware of the 'free ferries'). And what about all the smaller routes, like Lytton, Big Bar, Little Fort to name but a few. The cash flow is enough to make Chrispy's head spin! Visions of another Bollywood Extravaganza!
    Norm, was Chrispy still broadcasting as late as Sept 24, 2014? Shouldn't that be about 2012?


  2. The clip was played on Mike Eckford's show Sept 24, 2014 and was a recording of Clark ranting about the ferry situation back when she was hosting her own show on 'NW.


  3. The Minister of Transportation is generally not a bright spark, rather the “town fool” appointed by the premier. Transportation projects in BC are thinly disguised reelection devices to show the local rubes, how their tax money is being spent.

    The “fool” in charge of transportation just glad hands one vanity project after another because if he/she didn't the premier will appoint a new “fool” to run the show. In the premier's mind, BC Ferries is a yesterday's topic and their is far more votes to garner by building a $3 billion SkyTrain subway in Vancouver or a new multi billion dollar highway up the Fraser Valley.

    Until the “fool” who heads the Ministry of Transportation actually berates the premier publicly, nothing will change. “Town fools” know when the going is good and have a demonstrably lack of moral fibre when it comes both spending the taxpayer's dollar and how to further pick the pockets of taxpayer's for more cash.

    Until the rubes find the courage to wrest themselves of the Premier and her fools, nothing will change.

    Why do you think Herr Harper has introduced a new security bill, the fools on Parliament Hill are getting scared. I think Photo-op should be scared too.


  4. Am I missing something ? I never understood why inland ferries are free to riders. If it has to do with an ancient agreement then please tell me otherwise it must change. I wonder how many of those free riders complain that coastal ferries are costing too much ?

    Guy in Victoria


  5. Port Mann Bridge is Tolled; Kelowna's William Richard Bennett Bridge is FREE (CC riding); Upper Arrows Lake Ferry (Inland) is FREE because it runs under the helm of Todd Stone's Transportation portfolio, however with a NEW bridge being planned to eliminate the Ferry, the question has to be, will that NEW bridge be FREE, no TOLLS to pay for the construction costs of $462,658,000




  6. It is worth repeating that bout the time the North Island Princess was constructed Texada Island was served by a small vessel that carried five vehicles. In recent times, BC Ferries justified higher prices and reduced service because the ferry service was under-utilized.

    However, the population today is about the same as when the much small ferry provided service.

    BC Ferries put a boat that is too-large on the run, then punished residents for the ferry corporation's blunder.


  7. Today (Sat. Apr. 4) we traveled by ferry from Clinton on Whidby Island to Mukilteo, just south of Everett WA. A vehicle, 2 Seniors and a dog, $7.10 US. Round trip would have been $14.20.

    Had we gone to Bowen Island instead it would have cost $58.40 for the round trip.

    WA; senior discount every day and any senior, not just locals.
    BC; senior discount Mon-Thur only with photo ID and proof of BC residency.

    So, for $70 Canadian, we drove just under 500km on $35 gas, had coffee and muffins in Oak Harbor, toured Deception Pass State Park free, browsed Coupleville, shared a grilled Panini in Langley (WA) and had a nice little ferry ride across Puget Sound.

    An early Easter treat compliments of C. Clarke & Co.


  8. In addition, you travelled in an area of Washington State that is uncommonly attractive. A few miles from the ferry terminal at Clinton is Langley, home of the annual two-day DjangoFest, which will have its 15th edition this fall. At the north end of Whidbey Island is Deception Pass State Park and 7 miles north is Anacortes where you can catch a ferry to Victoria. And, yes, it is cheaper even after exchange.


  9. “Anacortes where you can catch a ferry to Victoria. And, yes, it is cheaper even after exchange.”

    As I noted on Harvey's blog a month ago; Last year some retired friends with trailers, travelled to Sidney and back via Anacortes because of the outrageous BCF costs. They paid just under $300US return as opposed to just under $600CA return via Tsawwassen. They also saved about $160 in fuel costs.

    As you have reported here Norm, one of the major differences is depth of deadwood. WSF, a comparable system to BCF in most categories , employs 65 managers while BCF employs more than 640.


  10. The inland ferry system and the coastal ferry system will always be treated differently, no matter how many times it is brought up. Politicians (mostly Liberal?) can't afford to lose votes if they were to start charging on all those inland routes.
    Nothing will ever change.


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