Sunday, December 08, 2013

Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs - Ferry Cuts

Nanaimo Ferry Services
 FERRY CUTS - The Sweet Spot
While the Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs have not yet succeeded in figuring out how the provincial government's ferry cuts will safeguard the coastal ferry system, they do think they've found the sweet spot for the least painful possible service cuts.

"If the government's goal is to find the biggest savings for the smallest traffic loss and least hardship, then we suggest it looks harder at the major routes, and at the big money-losing route hiding behind the profit-makers," says Brian Hollingshead of the Southern Gulf Islands.

The three major routes (from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island) are the giants of the system. Yet they're facing the slimmest of cuts compared to the 22 smaller routes.

Operating costs
Percentage of total operating costs
Cuts as a  percentage of operating costs
 * $ 522 million
100 %
$ 18.9 million
3.6 %
3 Major routes
$ 294 million
56 %
$   4.9 million
1.7 %
22 Smaller routes
$ 228 million
44 %
$ 14.0 million
6.1 %
Operating costs: BCF report to the BC Ferry Commission

The three major routes are considered the ferry system's profit makers. Yet one of those routes is one of the system's biggest money losers.
The Tsawwassen-Duke Point route has been losing money for at least ten years. In each of the last five years it has lost somewhere between $24 million to $30 million a year.

The route has an average capacity utilization of 48%. It could stand to lose one of its four shifts on weekdays for ten months a year and still have room for all its traffic. A combination of consultation and a revised reservation system could produce a schedule to accommodate the freight and commercial carriers who use the route heavily.

These cuts to Tsawwassen-Duke Point alone would save $9.6 million. The two profit-making major routes also could be trimmed more. With their massive scale, they can absorb cuts without the drastic impacts and community hardship that will be felt on the smaller routes

The government could use these savings from the major routes to buy time: to develop a business case for cuts to the smaller routes; to conduct social and economic impact assessments on the communities for which they're lifeline transportation; and to reverse any cuts that don't make sense.

While the government considers this suggestion, the FACC will continue to ask them for the detailed information they have used to develop the current cuts plan.

The FACC also continue to ask Transportation Minister Todd Stone to explain to ferry-dependent communities how the current cuts plan will fix the current barrier of the high fares, and how it will advance the government's goals for jobs and the economy.


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