As Gabriolans struggle on with the recently-imposed ferry cuts, we’re often reminded that things are so different at Washington State Ferries.
True, the differences are real enough. But they’re not enjoying the best of times there either. In the past week alone, two Washington State ferries have been pulled from service and the 60-year old ferry “Evergreen State” has been plucked out of mothballs to fill some of the gaps.
Photo by M L Jacobs for MarineTraffic.com
Earlier this week, the 202-vehicle Jumbo Class ferry WSF Wenatchee limped into drydock in Vancouver under a Canadian flag for urgent repairs to her main sterntubes, which were leaking. The North Vancouver shipyards were the nearest drydock facility available.
On the same day, Wenatchee’s sister ship WSF Tacoma was left drifting in Puget Sound with 138 vehicles and 405 passengers on board after suffering a complete engine failure. She was eventually towed into Bainbridge Island.
The Wenatchee is due to return to service this weekend, but in the meantime, there have been cancellations on several WSF routes and no service at all on the Sidney, BC – Anacortes run either yesterday or today.
New traffic signs have now been erected on Taylor Bay Road, directing ferry traffic that cannot join the line-up at the regular turn-around point to continue to the junction with Ivory Way (the campground entrance) where the gravel area has now been cleared and levelled to allow U-turns.
There are also signs on the narrow section where Taylor Bay Road crosses Mallett Creek, reminding drivers not to queue along this short section.
The Ferry Advisory Committee welcomes these new signs as an important reminder of how hazardous this length of road can be if drivers make U-turns close to a blind corner.
Now it’s up to Gabriolans to lead by example.
Proposals for new traffic signs to improve safety for drivers joining the ferry line-up have been put forward by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure this week. The new signs should be in place within the next few weeks.
The proposals include:
- A new advisory “U-Turn Route” sign just beyond the existing turning bay
- An additional “No U-Turn” sign (ahead of the existing sign) to prevent U-turns on the sharp bends
- A new “U-Turn Route” sign at Ivory Way junction
- Clearing and grading the gravel area at the Ivory Way U-Turn point
- Additional “No parking on Pavement” signs on the narrow section where Taylor Bay Road crosses Mallett Creek.
Click here or on the image below for a full size version. The FAC welcomes this proposal as the first stage of a safer traffic management plan for ferry traffic on Gabriola and invites feedback from the community on the proposal using the comments box below.
As the busiest time of year approaches, we urge drivers NOT to leave gaps in the ferry line-up – please park close to the vehicle in front of you, so that the line-up stays as short as possible. We understand that many drivers prefer not to park on the steepest section near the Taylor Bay Road ‘STOP’ sign – that’s fine – but PLEASE don’t leave gaps elsewhere simply so you can park in the sunshine (or shade).
The long-awaited extra midday ferry sailings start next Wednesday (June 25) and run through the summer until Friday, September 5.
The revised schedule affects Mondays to Fridays only, with no change to the present schedule on Saturdays or Sundays.
Ferries leaving Gabriola up to 9.50am and from 3.15pm (Monday through Friday) run at the same times, but after the 9.50am departure, there will then be sailings at 11.00am, 12.10pm and 1.20pm in place of the usual 11.40am and 12.50pm departures.
From Nanaimo, departures up to 9.15am are unchanged, after which ferries will leave at 10.25am, 11.35am, 12.45pm and 1.55pm (replacing the usual 11.05am, 12.15pm and 1.25pm sailings). The normal schedule resumes with the 3.50pm departure from Nanaimo. On Wednesdays, the 11.35am departure becomes the Dangerous Cargo sailing.
The extra summer sailings were added at the request of the Ferry Advisory Committee.
FAC Chair, John Hodgkins, still expects there to be some overloads during the summer months, particularly on Thursdays and around holiday weekends.
BC Ferries’ latest traffic statistics published today reveal a massive 10.5% reduction in vehicle traffic on the Gabriola route compared to the same month last year. That’s one of the biggest traffic losses on any gulf island route. Passenger traffic during May fell by more than 7%.
It’s early days, of course, but the 4% fare increase in April, the new charges for seniors’ travel and the cuts in service on April 28th have all hit home in May, leading to lowest May traffic levels on Route 19 for many years. At the same time, we’re seeing overloads on a scale we haven’t witnessed this early in the year.
The FAC has already asked BC Ferries for an urgent review of the new schedule. Vehicle and passenger statistics for May can be found on our Recent Performance page.
This morning’s Ferry Advisory Committee meeting with BC Ferries set out to tackle some of the challenges presented by the new ferry schedule – and finished up creating a whole new workplan for FAC members to pursue with BC Ferries ‘ local managers.
The FAC is pleased to welcome Chris Hock as a new member for the remainder of the current FAC term. Chris was nominated recently by the Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce to represent the Chamber on the committee, filling a vacancy created when Roger Perry moved from the island.
The first part of the meeting reflected on how the recent schedule change was affecting islanders – and although the new schedule itself continues to meet the majority of travel needs, it’s evident that the FAC’s predictions of more frequent overloads, longer line-ups and a drop in service reliability are all starting to impact on ferry users.
Traffic conditions on Taylor Bay Road are also a major concern with an ever increasing urge for drivers to make illegal U-turns in order to grab a space in the ferry line-up. As one contributor said, the greater pressure on daytime ferries seems to have created a sense of panic among drivers in their last-minute dash to ensure a place on the ferry. U-turns are being made in several locations where visibility of oncoming traffic is less than 5 seconds, creating significant safety hazards.
BC Ferries has promised to work with the FAC, Ministry of Transportation and local governments to come up with a traffic management plan for the Gabriola ferry line-up.
Several ongoing projects have been identified for referral to a new local liaison group comprising FAC members, BCF local managers and crew representatives. Top of the list will be the monitoring of ferry performance through the summer and the development of options to address some of the problems identified with the present service. The group will also contribute to the traffic management plan for the ferry line-up and investigate the potential to allow priority boarding for people travelling for time-sensitive medical treatments.
One further task will be a review of parking arrangements at Descanso Bay to identify options for the future use of any crew parking spaces that are no longer needed by BC Ferries. An element of this study will be to consider whether parking facilities for the Gabriola community bus (GERTIE) can be improved.
The present FAC term comes to an end this year and many of us believe that the value gained from the broader ferry working group established last year to review the government’s ferry cuts points to the need for a larger, more representative Ferry Advisory Committee next year, including nominees from both the RDN and Islands Trust. The major challenge will remain to get the Provincial government to the table and – as Sheila Malcolmson rightly said – finally get Ministers to look ferry users in the eyes, as they once promised to do.
Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee’s Spring meeting with BC Ferries takes place at The Haven (240 Davis Road) on Tuesday, May 27 from 8.45am until 11am. A copy of the agenda can be downloaded here.
Our main objective for this meeting is to review the impact of the April 28 schedule change and investigate what adjustments might be desirable. Another major concern is traffic management on Taylor Bay Road, where queues have become longer and hazardous U-turns are becoming more of an issue.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting; if you wish to raise an issue with BC Ferries please contact the Chair in advance of the meeting and we will ensure that time is available for you to speak. However, this is not an open house session and submissions from the public must be notified in advance. If you’re not able to attend, but would like to have a question raised, please feel free to email us at email@example.com
Understandably, ferry cuts have been an emotive issue for Gabriolans over recent months, but we do ask everyone to keep in mind that the role of the FAC is to enable dialogue with BC Ferries’ managers on local ferry service issues and to ensure we have sufficient time to address these immediate problems, the meeting will not debate government policy or non-ferry alternatives.