Ferries: Potential schedule changes; free sailing dilemmas; terminal parking; Quinsam returning late from refit

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, November 21 2017

As reported earlier ths fall, BC Ferries will be permanently adding the 1:50pm and 2:25pm weekend sailings back into the Gabriola schedule next summer.

At the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) meeting on November 15, BC Ferries staff said they are considering adding those sailings back in for other parts of the year, but haven’t made a final decision.

Peter Simpson, BC Ferries Director of fleet operational strategy said staff is looking at the holidays (such as long weekends) as one option, or the entire 12 months of the year.

Simpson was talking within the larger picture of whether more sailings can be added in to the Gabriola schedule

When the Gabriola FAC conducted a study with Gabriolans earlier this fall, one of the leading suggestions to solve the overload problem was to add more sailings to the schedule.

Simpson said adding in those weekend sailings is one of the easier places to add more sailings.

“But with respect to the other days of the week - more challenging - the ship is already operating at full frequency thru the day.”

In other words - the Quinsam is carrying as much as it can as fast as it can. 

“But we are looking at weekends - there will be a full response to that before Christmas.”

FAC and BCF agree government-imposed changes will not improve weekdays

FAC members and BC Ferries staff were in agreement that the 15% rollback on minor route fares and the return of free travel for seniors from Mondays to Thursdays has the potential to create more havoc on the Gabriola route.

Those changes are scheduled to take place April 1, 2018.

FAC Chair Steve Earle said, “That is the worst time to give free travel. Monday to Thursday.”

Mark Wilson, BC Ferries VP of Strategic Planning & Community Engagement said, “I agree. We’ve tried to get that message across.”

 Simpson said, “We are as aware of as the community in the amount of traffic that is coming - and also keenly aware of the promise the province has made with 15% rollbacks. 

“We have a good idea what that will do to the traffic.”

Parking at Gabriola terminal

BC Ferries is going to be bringing in a 24-hour limit for parking in the Gabriola ferry terminal parking area.

Chris Morris, BCF VP of terminal operations said there should be new signage going up soon stating that the parking is for 24 hours or less.

“The request from the Gabriola FAC was 24-hours, or get towed.” He said a past FAC had asked BC Ferries to get rid of that policy.

But at the request of the current FAC, “we’ll put it back up.”

How the company handles towing and enforcement is still being worked out.

Quinsam likely delayed in returning

BC Ferries says while the Quinsam may be a few days late in returning from her refit, she will be back serving on the Gabriola route before Christmas.

The Quinsam is scheduled to return on December 15.

BC Ferries staff said there have been a couple overruns with the refit.

Peggy Richardson, FAC member, said if the Quinsam is delayed past December 20 in starting her return back to Gabriola, will that mean the return gets lost in the Christmas break.

Wilson said, “we understand the Christmas schedule - but we’ll get the vessel back.”

Change table to be installed

BC Ferries staff confirmed one of the many items being dealt with on the Quinsam is the installation of a baby change table in the handicap/accessible washroom on board.

Currently, in order to use the accessible washroom on board the Quinsam, members of the public push an intercom button, which connects them to the bridge, who then task a crew member to go and unlock the washroom door. 

BC Ferries staff did not say whether that process would change with the Quinsam’s return.