April 24, 2019 8:45 pm
Updated: April 26, 2019 5:03 pm

BC Ferries to consider variable pricing, getting rid of separate fees as part of reservation overhaul

File photo of a BC Ferries vessel on the open water.


BC Ferries is overhauling its reservation system to deal with growing congestion and driver frustration, but there are still details to be worked out in terms of how the changes will exactly look.

The changes have been in the works for a while but pressure has increased since a busy Easter long weekend. Many drivers heading from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay waited for hours to catch a ferry and missed reservations because the traffic was so bad they couldn’t get to the ticket booth in time.

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READ MORE: Passengers vent frustration at traffic chaos, delays at BC Ferry terminals

BC Ferries says it’s looking for ways to improve customers experience and use technology to modernize the way customer service is provided.

Part of the new reservation system is expected to be some form of variable pricing. One option is that depending on the popularity of a route, pricing will change. The new system is expected to be in place this fall.

“We are looking at promotional pricing that will help to ease congestion during peak times by encouraging travel on less busy sailings,” said BC Ferries manager of communications and media relations Astrid Braunschmidt.

“We know that fare affordability is an ongoing concern, along with higher traffic volumes and occasional sailing waits. Our customers have also told us they prefer to have a single fare, rather than a standard fare and a separate booking fee.”

WATCH: Long weekend BC Ferries travellers face long waits and confusion

Under the variable pricing system there likely will be no reservation fee. Reservations now make up about 45 to 70 per cent of the vehicle traffic on major ferry routes.

Before the new changes come into place, BC Ferries is planning promotional pricing for lower traffic routes this summer.

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Ken van Rooyen has been pushing BC Ferries to set up a system where travellers buy a ticket in advance, like buying a plane ticket. Van Rooyen has sent his suggestion to BC Ferries and was told the renewed reservation system is on the way.

“No one likes sitting for hours waiting for the next sailing during busy times of the year,” van Rooyen wrote.

“I hate making a reservation and find it wasn’t needed — I feel cheated. I believe BC Ferries is using the current reservation system to increase revenue rather than speed the flow of traffic or minimize wait times.”

WATCH: Long ferry lineups mark end of Easter weekend

Van Rooyen says the solution is a “standard, automatic prepaid ticket purchase system” whereby ferry users receive their tickets in advance.

“Buy the ticket and show up 30 minutes before sailing. No need for hundreds of vehicles to line up for hours. One ship sails, next customers show up for next sailing. Simple,” van Rooyen writes.

“Without a ticket the customer goes on standby. If the ticket is canceled or changed within a reasonable period the customer gets on another sailing or a credit for a future sailing.”

“This is standard practice everywhere — why not with BC Ferries?”

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Transportation Minister Claire Trevena says she was surprised by the increase in traffic over the long weekend especially considering gas prices are going up. Trevena says she has confidence in BC Ferries to create a new reservation system that can deal with traffic issues while also providing access.

“These are parts of our highway system. You very much have the sense of the right to go to the ferry and get on it,” Trevena said.

“Clearly we have such a volume and limited capacity that BC Ferries is trying to manage both ways of doing it by updating their reservation system.”

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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