British Columbia·Updated

BC Ferries gets 18 to 37% rate increase

BC Ferries could be allowed to raise its rates by more than 37 per cent on northern and minor routes and nearly 18 per cent on major routes over a four year period, starting in April 2012.

Price cap would spread increases over four years.

As the B.C. Ferry Commission approves higher fares every year until 2015, the CBC's Lisa Johnson breaks down what it means for your wallet 2:07

BC Ferries could be allowed to raise its rates by more than 37 per cent on northern and minor routes and nearly 18 per cent on major routes over a four year period, starting in April 2012.

The price cap, which limits annual increases to 8.23 per cent on northern and minor routes and 4.15 per cent on major routes over four years received preliminary approval from the B.C. Ferry Commission, which controls fare increases, on Thursday morning. 

Those increases would amount to an increase of 17.7 per cent and 37.2 per cent in total over the four years, because of the compounding effects of the annual increases. The public has until June 30 to submit comments on the proposed price cap.

The fare increases on the major routes between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast are roughly in line with projections from BC Ferries, but much less than the annual fare increases of 12 to 14 per cent on minor routes and up to 26 per cent on northern routes originally sought by BC Ferries.

BC Ferries says it has no choice but to raise fares or decrease services on the remote routes, but the ferry commission has directed it to look for cost saving measures in order to keep them within the price cap.

The news comes the day before BC Ferries raises fares by 3.38 per cent on average on the three major routes connecting Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland and 6.71 per cent on average on the remaining routes in accordance with the price provisions set by the BC Ferry Commissioner in September 2007.

That means the cost for a car traveling one-way from the mainland to either Victoria or Nanaimo will rise to $47.75, while the drivers and each passengers will pay $14.25, a hike of 50 cents, on April 1.

Under the proposed price cap the same fares could rise to $56 and $16.77 by 2015.

On minor routes, such as the Nanaimo to Gabriola Island route, the $22.60 vehicle fare, which comes into effect April 1, could hit $31 by 2015.

 The B.C. Ferry Commission sets a price cap for the BC Ferries routes once every four years.