FAC pushing for weekend afternoon sailings to be restored year-round

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, May 22 2018

As of this past weekend, the 1:50 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. sailings are back on the Quinsam schedule for Saturdays and Sundays.

Until the Labour Day long weekend.

After that, Gabriola will go back to having almost three hours between sailings leaving both Nanaimo and Gabriola on weekend afternoons.

The Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) made the request to BC Ferries (BCF) staff to consider keeping those weekend sailings year-round.

Heather O’Sullivan, Islands Trust representative on the FAC, said, “We are very grateful for the reinstated weekend sailings which now include more of the shoulder season and long weekends.

“Absolutely, it is making a difference, but as you can see from the FAC report that you provided, we still experience a lot of overloads, we have very heavy traffic on the weekends, and we have no reason to believe that isn’t going to increase.”

She flagged comments from Mark Wilson, BC Ferries Vice President, Strategy & Community Engagement, who had outlined the traffic growth seen across the BCF system in the past three years.

O’Sullivan said, “A record traffic situation...an all-time high in 2017, passengers predicted to be all time high.

“We’d like to continue to push reinstating from the earlier period all the way to November. What we’d really like is to see them back all year round; we think the proof is in what we see on the ground here.”

Wilson said BCF recognizes the demand there is on those sailings.

There are downturns and upturns [in year-to-year traffic], but overall the system traffic is growing.”

O’Sullivan said, “As far as the request for the expansion for the weekend afternoon sailings - you are making my case for me, in that context, there is a need to see those come back.”

Peter Simpson, BCF Director, Fleet Operations Strategy, said one thing to remember was that there was never an argument about how busy those midday sailings were - rather when the government cuts were made to sailings in 2014, the weekend afternoon sailings were cut “to protect the late sailings which are underutilized sailings.

“The gap was seen as a time of day that was discretionary, rather than the essentials who were using the late night service.”

He said BCF will continue to look at restoring those sailings year-round, but at the time they were cut, the community had placed a higher value on keeping the late-night sailings.

“The way to keep those was to create that gap.”

O’Sullivan said she understood Simpson’s point, but given that the capacity utilization figures are going up - and those are inclusive of the late night sailings - the case can be made that the route can support both the weekend afternoon sailings, and the week-long late night sailings. Simpson said “this community is very good at providing justification and opportunities for us, I think we can continue to do that.”