Two years ago, Nanaimo Regional Transit asked its Stakeholder Advisory Group how connections with BC Ferries could be improved. The discussion went something like this….
“There’s nothing worse than watching a transit bus depart the ferry terminal just as passengers are walking down the ramp from the ferry. Equally, it’s unrealistic to expect a bus full of passengers from Hammond Bay to wait 15 minutes for a late ferry arriving at Departure Bay. What’s needed is a dedicated shuttle service for ferry passengers.”
The advisors were impressed how quickly Nanaimo Regional Transit responded with the introduction of Route 25 – promoted by BC Transit as the Ferry Shuttle – and scheduled to meet most daytime ferries at Departure Bay. It was never promoted by BC Ferries though, and most days the service ran with just a handful of passengers. Now and again, it actually connected with Gabriola ferries, making the transfer from Nanaimo Harbour and Departure Bay more reliable.
Then came summer. Like every summer before, BC Ferries changed its ferry schedule in and out of Departure Bay for four months. Most ferries arrive 10, 20 or 30 minutes later during the summer months, but Nanaimo Transit’s Ferry Shuttle never changed. Between June and September, it became virtually a No-Ferry Shuttle.
Summer 2014 came and went, and 2015 has been no different. Just as the ferries started filling up with walk-on passengers (including more than a few Gabriolans) the shuttle buses from Departure Bay went their own sweet way and ferry passengers were once more left standing at the roadside. Even when a connection seemed possible, passengers could not be certain that the bus would wait if the ferry was delayed. “Allow yourself extra time for unplanned delays” says the new RDN Transit Rider’s Guide. That’s no help if you’ve got another ferry to catch. That’s a cop-out.
Early next month, RDN Transit introduces a new schedule onto its Ferry Shuttle. Gone are the early morning connections with the popular 8.30am ferry from Departure Bay. Gone is the service on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Also gone is the convenience of the Ferry Shuttle calling at Port Place, alongside the Nanaimo Harbour terminal. Maybe Gabriolans were never supposed to use the service in the first place?
Last week, Ferry Advisory Committee Chairs were told that BC Ferries was launching a new working relationship with BC Transit to improve bus and ferry connectivity on the Sunshine Coast. Your FAC Chair reminded BC Ferries that they should also take a long hard look at what’s happening in Nanaimo.
A ferry shuttle service should be just that. A shuttle service between ferries. A service that actually connects with ferries, month in, month out, all year round. If BC Transit can’t meet the bill, maybe someone else should. Island Link Buses and Tofino Bus can offer guaranteed connections at Departure Bay, so how difficult can it be to run a ferry shuttle across town that actually guarantees to wait for the ferries?
Meanwhile, RDN’s Transit Future Plan acknowledges that the travelling public wants “improved transit connections to BC Ferries terminals, especially Duke Point Ferry Terminal”. In case that’s not clear, what the public really wants are transit services and ferry services that connect with one another. That requires more than a working relationship. It requires a commitment between two government-controlled transport agencies to work together for the benefit of their customers, most of whom are also BC taxpayers.
How difficult can it be?