Ferries critic reports on Washington state ferry system

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VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberals need to turn our ferry system around, and the first step is recognizing that this system is a key part of our transportation infrastructure, say New Democrats.

In October, New Democrat ferries critic Claire Trevena toured the Washington state ferry system, which, as compared to B.C. Ferries, maintains far better affordability for users and more modest pay for executives, and which saw a growth in ridership last year. Trevena released a report of her findings today.

“Washington State’s ferry system is by no means perfect, and it is facing many of the same challenges and rising expenses that our system is facing. But there is a key difference, and that is the acceptance in Washington state that ferries are extensions of the highway system. They are even referred to as ‘mobile bridges,’” said Trevena.

“This is a stark contrast to the B.C. Liberal approach. Since bringing in the Coastal Ferry Act in 2003, the Liberal government has run a critical transportation system like a corporate cruise line, while accepting and endorsing skyrocketing fares, declining ridership numbers, exorbitant executive pay, and cuts to services.”

Trevena says both ferry services started as private companies, but both were taken over by government when these services were recognized as essential drivers of state and provincial economies, but not moneymakers.

“In Washington state, most ferry routes connect with communities that are also connected by highways. Yet even so, there is an understanding that cuts across party lines that efficient transportation is essential to the state economy. Here, even with far more communities entirely dependent on ferries, the government seems to have forgotten why our ferry services matter.”

Trevena’s report contains a comparative analysis of Washington State Ferries based on information gathered during her six-day tour, which included meetings with 20 state policy-makers, ferries executives, union leaders, and local elected officials.

Click here to view the report.