As of April 8, the cost of the ticket to ride will be rising for Route 3 passengers.
Reservations will now be $15, no matter when they are made. Previously, a reservation cost $10 if made more than a week in advance, or $17 if within a week of sailing.
Standby fare without the Experience Card will rise from $61 to $63.30.
For Experience Card holders, the standby fare will be $49, up from $47.05. With a reservation, Experience Card users will now pay $63.90.
The company is also introducing more Saver fares, which are pre-paid discount options for select off-peak sailings. That option first launched on Route 3 in 2021 as a pilot project. Previously, the Saver fare from Horseshoe Bay was only offered at $39, but will be extended on April 8 to include $39, $49 and $59 options. Conditions include fees to change or cancel the booking.
While payment is not taken at the Langdale terminal, the Saver fare will now offer a free reservation for select sailings from Langdale. There are fees to cancel or change those reservations.
Cancellation fees range between $5 and $20, depending on when the cancellation is made as well as new charges for no-shows.
Another new option coming to Route 3 passengers is a $69 prepaid fare, including reservation fee, when paid in full at the time of booking.
Diana Mumford, chair of the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC), says the FAC wasn’t notified of the changes. And while fare increases in April are expected, these changes go beyond that. “To up [the reservation fee] by 50 per cent seems like a fairly significant amount,” said Mumford.
The $10 fee had a higher rate of no-shows, BC Ferries' executive director of public affairs, strategy and community engagement, Deborah Marshall, told the Coast Reporter in an email. "When people don’t show for their reservation and don’t cancel, we still hold the space until 30 minutes prior. This means that someone else who may have wanted to make a reservation but couldn’t because the reservation allocation was already fully subscribed loses out."
"With the $0 Saver fare, we expect it will help shift demand to lower utilized sailings by essentially offering a free reservation. This frees up more space at the popular times, so it helps with overall capacity utilization," said Marshall.
Marshall added that at least half of the reservations on Route 3 are made within seven days of the sailing.
The cancellation fee for reservations also has Mumford concerned as people sometimes have no control over missing the ferry – if they’re coming back from medical appointments or delayed because of an accident on Highway 101. “So if you miss the ferry, you're going to be penalized even further.”
The similarity to last year’s ill-fated pilot project to bring 95 per cent reservation capacity and free reservations to Route 3, which roused massive public blowback, is also a concern for Mumford. “A lot of the things that they're bringing forward seem to be reminiscent of that.”
Marshall said that the level of each sailing allocated for reservations will not change.
Mumford also pointed to the crewing challenges plaguing the company. “BC Ferries is very strongly promoting people to get reservations, but they're also telling us to expect challenges with ferries because of staffing.
“It’s not going to matter whether you have a reservation or not if your ferry’s not running.”
See the BC Ferries website for more details.
–With files from Bronwyn Beairsto