Not that many years ago, Pacific Coach Lines had buses on every B.C. Ferries sailing between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen. Now, ridership has dropped so low that the company is seeking permission to provide as few as three round trips daily on the route.
PCL, which is licensed to provide five round trips a day between Labour Day and the end of June, has applied to B.C.’s Passenger Transportation Board for permission to amend its minimum route frequency due to a 40 per cent decline in riders between 2010 and 2013.
The drop is due to increasing use of public transit, which is cheaper, said PCL spokeswoman Darion Tooley. “It’s devastating, devastating for us, but it’s reality,” Tooley said. “We are a private company and we are not subsidized by one penny from anyone else.”
The downward trend is expected to continue, making the reduction necessary if the company wants to succeed. “We have been doing this since 1960 and have every intention of continuing,” she said.
Ridership for the nine off-peak months dropped to 103,000 in 2013 from 172,000 in 2010 and is projected to drop below 88,000 for 2014, says PCL’s submission to the board. “We love our company but at the same time, there are changes and we have to react to them,” Tooley said.
Many customers switched to public transit after service improved with the opening of Metro Vancouver’s Canada Line in 2010. PCL points out that its service is faster, less crowded and doesn’t require multiple transfers.
The company is also seeking a legal reduction in its minimum service to Vancouver International Airport to three round trips a day from five. Peak season service will remain at a minimum of seven round trips a day.
If the company’s request is approved, PCL won’t necessarily change its schedule immediately, Tooley said.
In 2011, PCL applied to reduce its daily round trips to eight from 13 to 15 during the peak season and to six from seven to nine in the off season. Further reductions were approved in 2013.
The Passenger Transportation Board will consider written submissions from the public received by Oct. 1. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 250-953-3788 or write to PO Box 9850 Stn Prov Govt, Victoria, B.C. V8W 9T5.
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One-way B.C. resident adult fare from downtown Victoria to downtown Vancouver on PCL: $49.25 including B.C. Ferries fare.
Total cost via public transit including B.C. Ferries fare: around $22 to $25
On public transit, it’s $2.50 for a cash bus fare from downtown Victoria to Swartz Bay terminal, plus walk-on adult B.C. Ferries fare of $16.25 (plus fuel surcharge, currently 50 cents) and between $2.75 and $5.50 for bus and Canada Line from Tsawwassen terminal to downtown Vancouver depending on time of day and day of the week.
This story has been edited to correct errors about fares.