No changes coming from Ministry or BC Ferries to alleviate ferry pressures

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 22 2017

Neither BC Ferries (BCF) nor the Transportation Ministry (MOTI) has any plans to make changes to the Gabriola ferry or lineup area in the near future, pending a system-wide operational review coming later this year.

That according to Sonia Lowe, Public Affairs Officer with MOTI, and Darin Guenette, Communications Manager with BC Ferries.

Both were asked if any of the following solutions (none of them new) were being considered, given the growth in traffic the Gabriola route is seeing during both the on and off seasons.

1. Bringing in a bigger vessel in the summer, as vehicles left behind for one sailing add to the lineup for the next sailing. 

2. Sending the Gabriola ferry to Duke Point during the busy months which, with a shorter sailing, could mean more frequent sailings between Gabriola and Vancouver Island.

3. Re-examining the fixed link question, and doing another study. One critique (of the many) of the 2014 “bridge” study is that it compared the cost of a bridge to running the ferry for 25 years (average half-life of a ferry), rather than comparing the cost of running a ferry to the average lifetime of a bridge (approximately 100 years).

Lowe said at this point in time, no new fixed link study for Gabriola is being planned. 

“Government will be overseeing a comprehensive operating review which will help inform future decision making on this critical transportation link, and feedback the Ministry receives on the service will be taken into consideration as we move forward.

“The Ministry is working on the scope of the review and there will be more information in the coming weeks.”

She added that the government’s mandate is to roll back fares by 15 per cent on all routes, except the ones between Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Fares will be frozen on the major routes and free passenger fares will be reinstated for seniors travelling Monday to Thursday. 

Those changes will be introduced next fiscal year, which begins April 1, 2018.

Guenette confirmed that BC Ferries vessel and terminal staff are certainly hearing about the challenges being faced in the community.

 He said that as far as vessel redeployment options go [bringing in a larger vessel or shifting the Quinsam to go to Duke Point instead of Nanaimo Harbour], there are currently no short-term changes planned. 

“There are no larger capacity vessels available to deploy during the peak season. We can discuss the current plan for when/why Quinsam is to be replaced at the fall FAC [Ferry Advisory Committee ] meeting.”

This is the second summer in which BC Ferries has run a pilot project in July and August keeping the 1:50 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. sailings operating on Saturdays and Sundays.

The project is slated to end after this month, and there has been no confirmation from BC Ferries on whether it will be continued in 2018.

Guenette said, “We will need to wait until the end of this peak season before a thorough analysis can be completed. 

“This may likely take some time, but we will certainly inform the FAC as soon as we have made a decision based on our findings.”