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.