This might not surprise anyone but here goes... A online survey by the Bowen Island Ferry Advisory Committee shows that Islanders are very concerned about rising ferry costs.
The survey was conducted online from late Feb. to April 1. There were 234 respondents.
Committee member Bill Van Luven says the survey was intended to give the committee an idea of where Bowen Islanders stand at a time when B.C. Ferries appears set to raise fares by 50 per cent or more over the next few years. He told the Undercurrent that it "...helps the community's bargaining position and gives us a single voice, and puts strength behind it."
Of those 234 respondents who answered the 20 questions, 85.8 percent said they lived on Bowen all year and 63.7 percent said they drive onto the ferry for 80 per cent or more of their trips, with 19.9 per cent saying they walk on for 80 per cent of their trips, or more.
One question noted that B.C. Ferries projects fares to increase by 12 per cent a year for the next five years.
Thirty-four per cent said that such increases will significantly affect the number of trips they take, with another 33 per cent saying it will substantially affect the number of trips. The remaining 32.6 per cent of respondents were equally divided between saying the increases would not affect or have only a slight effect on their travelling patterns.
The ferry service ratings for on-time performance were as follows (on time was defined as "sailing within 10 minutes of the scheduled departure time"): 15.5 percent said it was very reliably on-time (90 to 100 percent of the time); 52.8 percent said it was usually on-time (70 to 90 percent of the time); and 27.3 percent said it was one-time half the time or better (50 to 70 percent of the time).
When it came to the professionalism of B.C. Ferry staff (the survey defined professionalism as "courteous, accessible and helpful") the foot-passenger ticket booth staff and administration and reception staff at Horseshoe Bay terminal, where Islanders are often rushing for a ferry, rate lower than other staff.
Of the ferry's crew, 80.8 percent of respondents found them either 'very professional' or 'somewhat professional' while vehicle ticket booth employees were found 'very professional' or 'somewhat professional' by 86.9 percent of respondents. However the terminal's foot-passenger ticket-booth staff were found very or somewhat professional by only 58.1 percent of respondents and just 53.1 percent found admin and reception staff very or somewhat professional.
The survey gave respondents the opportunity to write in comments and many did so. A large majority focused on fare increases and many suggested increases may drive them all the way to the mainland. Some said that costs already had.
"I am being priced off the island by the fare increases," one respondent wrote. "I will be moving in the next six months or sooner." Another respondent said it was "difficult with children to not drive on when they are commuting with you. If this was the future, we would have to move to the mainland."
Another responder noted that: "Both my husband and I work on the mainland. We are born and raised on Bowen Island and are now raising our children here, but if prices continue to climb... we may have to consider moving to the mainland. Unfortunate and unjust."
The advisory committee will soon post the survey on the municipality's website.