FAC completes its review of ferry schedules

The Ferry Advisory Committee has now completed the analysis of its recent survey to establish the community’s views on a range of alternative schedule options, and has presented its findings to BC Ferries.

Click on the following links to download full copies of the Survey report (which includes a review of potential community impacts) together with the Appendices which contain almost 1,000 comments submitted as part of the survey.

As a result of our findings, we concluded that:

The responses indicate that the community slightly favours the service offered by Option 1, but the difference between the preference afforded to the three options is marginal.

Since the service offered by Option 3 is, in large part, similar to that offered by Option 1, the majority (almost two-thirds) of respondents to our survey preferred one of these options over the adoption of Option 2. [Option 2 was the only one of the three options in which the first morning departure from Gabriola remained at 5:30 am on weekdays].

Although not offered as an option, some people have indicated they would prefer to stay with the present schedule.

The response from the community indicates that there would be a broad level of public support for measures that will:

  • Improve the on-time performance of the ferry service;
  • Reduce the number of overloads occurring on Gabriola during the daytime;
  • Achieve a more consistent ferry schedule with fewer daily or seasonal variations;
  • Remove the gaps in service during the mid-morning and early afternoon;
  • Reduce overloads on ferries leaving Nanaimo through the afternoon peak;
  • Minimise any additional travelling time for students attending Nanaimo schools;
  • Reduce the mid-evening gap in ferry services leaving Nanaimo, especially on Wednesdays;
  • Maintain a daily late ferry leaving Nanaimo around 11pm.

The achievement of these objectives would, however, have the potential to impact on a number of Gabriola residents, especially those whose work patterns:

  • Require them to arrive in Nanaimo before 7am on weekdays; or
  • Require them to travel home from Nanaimo after a day shift ending at 7:30pm.

Any change to early morning ferry schedules would also impact on opportunities for onward ferry travel to Vancouver on weekdays.

The case for linking the Gabriola ferry schedule to prioritise connections with ferries to and from the Lower Mainland offers no guarantee that services to and from the mainland will be maintained at existing times through 2015 and beyond.

In the light of experience during the summer of 2014, the 10-week peak enhancement to the summer ferry schedule does not adequately address the increased demand for ferry travel to & from Gabriola during the early and late summer months and any seasonal enhancement should, in future, operate for at least 26 weeks a year.

The schedule implemented in April 2014 has been a contributory factor to a decline in vehicle and passenger traffic on Route 19 at a greater rate than has been experienced on similar ferry routes elsewhere on the coast.

The April 2014 ferry schedule has also resulted in a deterioration of on-time performance, especially during the summer months, which must be addressed before Summer 2015.

We believe the schedule implemented in April 2014 is unlikely to have achieved the performance targets set by government and this has increased the risk of further service reductions being imposed on Route 19 within the next 2 years.

Despite the challenges presented by the retiming of the first departure from Gabriola, there are sound arguments in favour of adjusting the ferry schedule to align with Option 1 of the recently suggested alternatives.

It is our strong preference that the implementation of any schedule change should be delayed until March or April 2015 to allow as much time as possible for those who will be most affected to prepare for the changes.

Any schedule changes that are to be made should be made known to the travelling public at the earliest opportunity, together with a definitive date on which the proposed changes are to come into effect.

The Ferry Advisory Committee acknowledges that:

Responsibility for the final determination of the ferry schedule lies with BC Ferries and not with the FAC, however we ask that BC Ferries take account of the views expressed by the community before any change to the schedule is proposed.

Changes to the ferry schedule may result in serious disruption to some Gabriolans. We will continue to work with BC Ferries to achieve a schedule that reflects the needs of ferry users and that supports the economy and health of the community.

Once we have details of BC Ferries’ proposed schedule, they will be posted on this website.

The FAC will continue to work with BC Ferries to monitor the effects of any change in ferry schedules and maintain a dialogue through 2015 and beyond to minimise, where possible, any adverse effects on Gabriola residents.

We are grateful to all of the residents and businesses of Gabriola that contributed to this review by responding to the survey and commenting in other ways. We would also like to thank Steven Earle (Chair of the Islands Trust’s Transportation Advisory Commission on Gabriola) for his valued input to this review.

We welcome further feedback from the community.

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