The MLA for North Island is touring Washington State's ferry system this week on a trip she hopes will help improve services aboard B.C. Ferries vessels and help lower costs for users.
Claire Trevena, who is also the NDP's transportation critic, says that B.C. Ferries "are charging ridiculous fares" for sailings that are comparable to many less expensive routes in Washington, and she wants to understand how the neighbouring state has managed to keep fares low.
"I'm talking to the people that run it, the legislators, the people who actually work on the ferries and the ferry users just to get a sense from them about what works and what doesn’t work," Trevena said.
She has a ferry fare budget of $170 for five days of travel with a car that will take her to Olympia, Seattle, and the San Juan Islands before finally returning to Sidney, B.C. on an international sailing that departs from Anacortes Island.
According to Trevena, she was inspired to take the trip when she realized that while $170 could take her nearly around the entire ferry-serviced coast of Washington, the same amount would only buy her a few crossings on the short route that she frequently takes from her home on Quadra Island.
"If I was going back and forth between Campbell River and Quadra Island, which is a ten minute ferry crossing, I could do that four times for the amount that it will cost to travel right around the state and then get back to B.C.," she said.
Trevena said she will be compiling a report on her findings when she returns, and that part of that work will be to examine the discrepancy between compensation for B.C. Ferries executives and their counterparts in Washington.
Last year, president and CEO of B.C. Ferries Michael Corrigan received over $500,000 in financial compensation, while his American equivalent was paid about $166,000.
According to Trevena, the Coastal Ferries Act, which was enacted in B.C. 12 years ago and handed control of B.C.'s ferries to private interests, is a "complete failure" and is largely to blame for the current prices of ferry travel in the province.
"It doesn’t help our ferry system, it doesn’t help our economy, and it doesn’t help our ferry dependent communities," she said. "We've got to do something. They are important to our infrastructure, they are important to our economy in B.C. This has been recognized for years… they are important as any of our roads and bridges."