BC Ferries reported a record first quarter in terms of vehicle traffic, and the busiest spring season for passengers in 20 years, though summers typically remain busier. 

In the first quarter, which ended June 30, BC Ferries reported passenger traffic increased 3.8 per cent from the same period last year, while vehicle traffic was up 4.4 per cent.

"We have added additional sailings, provided numerous fare discount opportunities and introduced efficient new vessels," said Mark Collins, BC Ferries president and CEO. 

"This first quarter has been very busy for our company, as we carried historically high volumes and focused on improving the customer experience," Collins said in a news release.

Despite the high traffic, quarterly net earnings were down considerably, from $27 million to $17.3 million, compared to last year.

"Our net earnings have decreased compared to the first quarter of last year, as BC Ferries invests in this improved customer experience. We have held ticket prices stable, absorbed increased operating costs due to higher traffic and delivered additional capacity to customers," said Collins.

According to BC Ferries, a targeted discount program increased ferry travel for some passengers and moved demand to sailings that were previously being underused. 

During the first quarter this year, B.C. Ferries spent $91 million on new vessels, upgrades and terminal improvements.

Fare cuts expected

In the run-up to the May election, the BC NDP promised voters a reduction on some BC Ferries fares, Claire Trevena, B.C.'s new transportation and infrastructure minister, has pledged to make good on those promises.

The NDP's election platform called for a fare freeze on major routes and a 15 per cent reduction of fares on minor routes. It also promised seniors would travel free during the week.