Increase in commercial traffic adding to ferry lineup

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 22 2017

According to John Hodgkins, Co-chair of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC), part of what is causing the larger and longer lineups on both sides of the Gabriola ferry route is the increase in the number of tradespeople coming from off island to work on Gabriola.

Hodgkins was speaking at the recent ratepayers meeting held to discuss island roadway issues, and as with many Gabriola conversations, that led to safety issues and concerns with the ferry lineup.

Hodgkins said, “We’re seeing increasing numbers of commercial vehicles coming from Nanaimo, partly because of changes in businesses on the island, but also because of the history of self-employed contractors on the island - there are not as many as there used to be.

“People from Gabriola are hiring more from Nanaimo.”

That increase is seen in the number of trades vehicles at the Nanaimo Harbour terminal ahead of the morning sailings, and in the afternoon lineups on Gabriola.

With an increase in trades, which typically brings larger vehicles, this leads to longer lineups.

Hodgkins said even if, down the road, the Quinsam is replaced by a ferry capable of holding more vehicles, there will still be the problem of where do all the vehicles line up for the ferry.

“One feature that we have had for a good many years on North Road is an oversized vehicle lane - it was put there to assist drivers of very large vehicles to prevent them from going into Taylor Bay Road. But the reality is that even when that is used, a driver going into that bay has no way of knowing when it is their turn to leave the bay [and join in the lineup loading on to the ferry].”

In 2015, the Gabriola Chamber of Commerce released a State of the Gabriola Economy survey.

The consultants who put the post-survey report together cautioned that the survey was an under-representation of construction companies operating on the island - as companies were difficult to connect with, or solicit responses from.

Of those who did respond, almost half of them reported modest to significant increases in business performance over the previous three years - about a quarter of the respondents said they had seen a decrease.

The greatest challenge facing the industry, according to the respondents, is a lack of suitable staff on island.

The survey elicited comments such as, “Work ethic, training and punctuality are lacking,” or “All the trained people are retiring.”

Since the survey was released, members of the trades industry on the island have said that business is booming for anyone who is actively responding to a market demand for those services.