BC Ferries has the green light to raise fares by up to 12 per cent over three years and passengers should expect less frequent sailings on some major runs.
Increases in the fare cap of roughly four per cent a year were approved Monday by B.C. Ferry Commissioner Gord Macatee.
The ferries regulator also directed BC Ferries to come up with more than $54 million in savings over four years, including $30 million through service cuts.
BC Ferries will trim some sailings starting in mid-October, particularly when vessels are running with light passenger loads on major routes between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.
Regular odd-hour sailings won't be affected, but nearly 100 even-hour round-trip sailings are to be scrapped between those terminals this fall and winter to help save an estimated $1 million.
Tsawwassen-Duke Point sailings that have been running less than 25 per cent full account for nearly half the planned cuts and and that run moves to a shortened Saturday schedule.
Potential cuts to Gulf Islands routes are to go to public hearings in advance of any decision.
BC Ferries reported declining fare revenue in 2011, recording the lowest number of passengers in 21 years. Vehicle traffic is at a 13-year low.
The province injected an extra $80 million into the ferry service this year to avert the threat of considerably higher fare increases as well as deeper service cuts.
One option Macatee expects the corporation to explore is the possible conversion of some ferries to natural gas, reducing the impact of high fuel costs.
The corporation is to file an alternate fuel use plan within 30 days, as well as a separate plan to cut fuel consumption.
– with files from CTV