Letter: Crossing future

Tuesday, August 22 2017

The Gabriola Ferry is the topic of many discussions these days. We talked about it during our recent meeting with Highways and more people than before want to tell me of their travelling frustrations. Too often it involves huge amounts of waiting time for 15-minute appointments in Nanaimo.

Many will recall the last time the crossing was discussed and how the Minister of Transport commissioned a report on the idea of a bridge. This was a report designed to validate a continuation of the status quo by torching the bridge idea. The design of the study was an insult to many of us and we made sure BC Ferries (BCF) and the consultant knew that.

In recent times, the ripple effect of large home price increases in the Lower Mainland have triggered an exodus from the Greater Vancouver area into the surrounding locations like Gabriola. The consequence is a surge in traffic wanting to use the Gabriola ferry, boosted by the folks not able to holiday in the BC Interior needing a plan “B.”

In our discussions with BC Highways, a lot of the audience wanted to talk about the management of the traffic waiting to load. No ready-at-hand solutions were offered, so that all options spoken of looked prohibitively expensive.

Our ferry is about six to eight years from end of service life, maybe. If a new ferry is to be soon ordered it looks like BCF is looking to standardize at about 125 car capacity. If this is so, then the vehicle waiting space on both sides is woefully short. This would also mean a somewhat longer time in terminals to accommodate loading and unloading a larger number of vehicles. All this is to say that the installation of a much larger boat would likely mean a reduction of frequencies over the course of the normal day, particularly during the summer peak travel months and a lot of new spending to enlarge terminal areas.

It is easy to see that decisions affecting our quality of life on Gabriola are not too far off, and I don’t think those with a direct stake in the outcome have given, or are giving, the issue much attention. If we drift much further, others will impose their ideas and solutions on us. If the past is any indication of the future, our travel service will be more expensive and there will be less of it.

The question I have is, does the community wish “Ratepayers” to convene some type of discussion of this topic or leave it to the Ferry Advisory team who are very capable? It is a big undertaking for any volunteer group, so starting something is no small matter.

~ Erik Andersen