Fare freezes and service level guarantees have been baked into the agreements signed with BC Ferries, BC Transit and TransLink for their share of the $1-billion Safe Restart funding supplied by the federal and B.C. governments.
“This ensures these essential services are maintained across the province and that fares will remain affordable – providing certainty for people as we recover from these challenging times,” said B.C.’s new Transportation Minister Rob Fleming in a Dec. 4 release.
Under the new agreements, which apply until March 31, 2024, BC Ferries has committed to freezing fares at least until March 31, 2021 and that any increases over the next three years would be limited to rate caps in place before the pandemic hit, said the release. The corporation is receiving $308 million
Also it says, “minimum service levels and additional sailings to meet community needs will be maintained through at least the next three years.”
Under the agreement, released with the Dec. 4 announcement, $280 million will cover the “operational fiscal impacts” of COVID from 2020 to the 2021-22 fiscal year based on a “medium-case scenario,” and $24 million will be spent on “fare increase relief.” Another $4 million will go towards “discretionary sailing relief” to ensure discretionary sailings are be maintained to the end of the 2023-24 fiscal year.
BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins said the agreement “will help cover the substantial net revenue losses we are currently incurring as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and allow us to keep fares affordable for our customers during this time. This commitment shows transit is an essential part of a smooth economic recovery.”
As for BC Transit, the agreement ensures fares will be “capped at affordable levels” to March 31, 2024. The agreement puts those increases at 2.3 per cent per year. According to the agreement’s funding schedule, the Sunshine Coast is expected to receive approximately $793,000 for its conventional transit system and an additional $21,000 for its custom services.
BC Transit received $86 million and according to the agreement must allocate the funds “solely for the benefit of Local Government Partners, in a manner that will assist Local Government Partners to meet their share of costs to maintain affordable Essential Transit Service Levels during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery period.”