BC Ferries is proposing to cut the number of routes that commute between Vancouver Island and the mainland beginning in April of next year. The service cuts are part of a plan to prevent higher fare rates for commuters.
The proposal also includes plans for on-board slot machines on the main Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, which frequently travels between Victoria and Vancouver. BC Ferries says the slot machines, which will be owned by the BCLC, will increase revenue for the struggling service without charging higher rates to commuters.
Todd Stone, BC’s Transportation Minister, says the changes are necessary as rates are already scheduled to rise. Beginning in April, fares will increase by 4 percent, with another 3.9 percent added onto the routes in April of 2015.
The free travel for seniors between Mondays and Thursdays is also being removed from the schedule, replaced by a fare that is still half off the standard rate for other travellers. The service cuts on smaller, less popular routes will also save BC Ferries over $18 million by 2016.
Stone says the service cuts, as well as a trial run of on-board slot machines that could become a permanent fixture on all boats, will prevent the ferry service from raising rates again.
“We’ve heard loud and clear, from people in the coastal communities through the various rounds of consultations that have taken place to this point – that fares cannot continue to escalate as they have. And people want the ferry system to be there.”
While the BCLC will own the slots, BC Ferries staff will be trained to monitor the machines by the lottery organization, similar to employees of BC casinos. According to Stone, revenue from the slots, as well as money saved through the service cuts, will be used to finance repairs to the Horseshoe Bay Terminal, which is where commuters park their cars to take the ferries.