After a year of almost continuous growth in ferry traffic, 2016 came to a bitterly cold end, resulting in fewer trips being made on our ferry than in December 2015. Passenger numbers were down in December by 4.4%, and vehicle traffic down by 1.5%. A similar pattern was seen across most BC Ferries routes, including the major route from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay. One route bucking the trend however is Route 30 (Duke Point to Tsawwassen) which saw vehicle traffic rise by 10% in December, and passenger traffic up by 12%.
Despite this sting in the tail, 2016, ferry traffic to and from Gabriola during 2016 increased overall by 3.4% (vehicles) and 1.25% (passengers) compared to 2015 – and, at last, traffic has returned to the levels we were seeing before the ferry cuts of April 2014 – albeit we now have two less sailings each day.
Explaining the traffic growth in 2016 is relatively easy. Continuing low fuel prices for most of the year encouraged domestic travel, and tourist from overseas rose by 12% in 2016. Not to mention the one extra day (February 29) which on on its own contributed 0.25% to the annual growth. Forecasting 2017 may be more challenging, especially if rising fuel prices bring the present 2.9% fare rebate to an end.
Gabriola FAC monitors ferry traffic by calendar year, whereas BC Ferries reports annually based on the fiscal year (April to March), resulting in annual fluctuations created by an early or late Easter. The fiscal year to March 2017 included no Easter holiday, whereas this Easter falls in April and Easter break 2018 will span two fiscal years. By comparing calendar years, this distortion is avoided. See our Route 19 Performance page for details.