Editorial: Ferries boss lets slip a big reveal

BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins staked out a position this week that puts him at direct odds with his Sunshine Coast customers. How else can we take his admission that he’s told the provincial government that the resident priority boarding policy for Route 3, barely in its infancy, “should be brought to an end as soon as possible”?

Mr. Collins suggested he isn’t against the idea itself, but just the “extremely vague” way it was imposed by the province. “If we were going to do this permanently, it would have taken probably a year or more of consultation with the community to work out the rules,” he said. “Then the community would follow the rules and we would follow the rules and we would have an agreed process.” But that, he lamented, “didn’t happen.”

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The whole statement is nonsense.

A resident priority boarding system boils down to eligibility and identification.

For eligibility, start with permanent residents and expand to part-timers if capacity can handle it based on general wait times.

Identification has been the big issue, with BC Ferries complaining that checking driver’s licences would be too cumbersome for terminal staff. Not everyone accepts that, but our readers have no difficulty coming up with other workable solutions.

In a Letter to the Editor this week, Elizabeth Rains proposes a windshield sticker that could be issued through the SCRD or local ICBC offices. She even got an estimate from Sticker Canada for 20,000 vinyl stickers. The cost is five cents per sticker.

Another reader, Hesham Seoud of Gibsons, came up with a similar idea, except it would be a decal fixed on the front licence plate. Mr. Seoud offers to seek out the necessary permissions on his own if there’s public interest. BC Ferries management, he says perceptively, “would rather spend their time finding ways to augment their reservations revenues and gouge their clients with ridiculously high reservation fees. So it is up to us, the residents, to guide them on how to grant us this priority.”

But no – according to Mark Collins, it would take a year or more to slay this beast; clearly it’s a superhuman task and so it should be abandoned post-haste.

Unless he’s being completely disingenuous, the Ferries boss has revealed himself incapable of following Ms. Rains’ injunction to “think outside the box.” And if this is the case with resident priority loading, it must be even more so for confronting the much greater challenges of securing a second ferry for Route 3 and creating a schedule that adequately serves the people who live here or come to visit.

If BC Ferries needs a year or more of consultation to wrestle with a problem that a five-cent sticker could solve, the whole fleet is in serious trouble.

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