EDITORIAL: Tough decisions needed by Ferries

Seniors, Gulf Islanders, logical victims of cost-cutting measures

No changes to how B.C. Ferries delivers its services will ever meet with total approval.

Critics of the proposal to charge seniors half-price passenger rates during the week instead of giving them free passage see the decision as gouging a vulnerable segment of society.

But half price is still a generous discount.

The perk of free mid-week passage for seniors may have made moral sense, if not business sense, when the corporation was in a better financial position, but not now.

B.C. Ferries’ proposal to cut little-used early morning and late-night runs on smaller routes makes sense, as does maintaining service at busier commuter times.

Some argue that any cut to service is a blow to the original B.C. Ferries concept of extending the coastal highway system to the growing number of people living on smaller islands. But those residents, many of whom commute to work on Vancouver Island or the mainland, have chosen that lifestyle and it comes with costs.

Forcing the majority to pay through ever-higher fares to service the minority doesn’t make sense.

The idea of putting slot machines on ferries working the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen run is an insult to passengers maxed out with the number of extra-cost services available on the ships. While revenue from these runs has subsidized the smaller runs for years, enough is enough. It’s time to stop looking for more ways to gouge the already cash-strapped ridership.

With the balance sheets bleeding red, B.C. Ferries must make some hard choices.

Complicating that scenario is the fact the corporation is quasi-private and serves two masters, the public and government, which is the public in business suits. As such, the need to find workable compromises is heightened.

In the end, the main objective is stabilization of fares for all ferry riders.

If that takes cutting some low-usage sailings and asking seniors to pay a little more, we’re all for it.