This article doesn't surprise me.
I own property on one of BC's Gulf Islands, and, for weekend travel, it now costs $170 for a round-trip fare for two people and a car. For a 42 km trip! In September, 2010, the same trip cost $135: a 25% increase in 4 years. The total consumer price index rise in that time period is 5.45%. In 2007, when we bought our place, a Fri-Sun trip for two people cost me $113, for a 50% increase in fare price since 2007 (inflation = 10.2%). BC Ferries fares have gone up almost 5 times faster than inflation. IN LESS THAN 10 YEARS. There's plenty wrong with this picture. I've been complaining for years that fares are getting unreasonable, but I wind up sounding like a privileged whiner because after all, I *did* choose to buy on an island.
That said, it's very obvious to this casual observer that ridership is down, even without a study. Since 2007, every summer, once the May long weekend rolled around, if I didn't book my long weekend reservations 3 to 4 weeks ahead of time (or sometimes longer), I'd be SOL, as the sailings would sell out early. This year, I booked as late as 14 to 10 days ahead of time, and ALWAYS got my preferred sailing. On regular weekends this summer, I noticed that the boat would not be completely full, whereas in prior years, a weekend sailing was invariably full.
BC Ferries fares are hurting their business. They are hurting the island businesses who depend on summer tourism dollars to get them through the winter, because fewer people are visiting. And who can blame a tourist who looks at the costs of a single tank of gas to Whistler, and compares that to $170 for 2 people, plus the hassle of planning for reservations and loading waits, and chooses the inland B&B? There is simply no justification for these exorbitant increases, especially when you compare our ferry system to Washington State's, whose fares are much more reasonable and whose management salaries are also not insane.
BC Ferries is now cannibalizing its own ridership. Surely that will cause someone to wake up and smell the price gouging.