FAC Chair handing over the reins

John Hodgkins, who has chaired Gabriola FAC since 2012, is stepping down from the role ahead of the forthcoming FAC meeting in November. A new Chair will be elected at that meeting.

For the past two years, John has divided his time between Gabriola and his family home in the UK, and he plans to move back there permanently in 2018.  He will continue to participate in the work of the FAC for the remainder of its current term.

John will continue to oversee the FAC website which he introduced in 2012 “to give the FAC much greater community focus”.   He joined the FAC at a time when the whole of the previous committee had stepped down ‘en bloc’ and there was a clear lack of engagement with the wider community on the island.  “Using the website and social media has brought the work of the FAC much closer to the community, giving its members the confidence that they can properly represent the community’s needs in their dialogue with BC Ferries” he said this week.

John said “Over the past few years I’ve had terrific support from colleagues on the FAC and I’m especially grateful to Steven Earle who agreed to co-chair the committee whenever I’ve been away over the past couple of years”

“The Ferry Advisory Committee is, as the name implies, purely advisory – and although we are nominally appointed by BC Ferries, its role is to ensure that the interests of Gabriolans are communicated to BC Ferries whenever the need arises. If that means calling BC Ferries to account for doing something that has caused problems to the community, then so be it” he said.  “BC Ferries managers have respect for FACs that can present them with factual evidence rather than relying on political inertia and a reluctance to accept change.”

“It’s particularly important for any FAC to gain the confidence of BCF management and to understand the constraints within which the corporation is required to operate – but that doesn’t mean that the FAC cannot challenge their decisions if we have the facts to support that challenge.”

“Having a career in transportation management in both public and private sector taught me that commercial organisations will always set their direction based on the anticipated financial outcome, but they are not always as close to understanding the needs of their customers as they might think.  It’s the job of the FAC to try and convince BCF managers to do things differently, and sometimes that’s no easy task”

“Good luck to the committee in their endeavours!”

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All change on Horseshoe Bay/Departure Bay ferry

As part of a major shake-up of ferry services in and out of Horseshoe Bay, BC Ferries has announced new schedules to improve services on the Langdale and Bowen Island Routes. These new schedules will include changes to Route 2, between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

Starting January 2, a revised schedule is proposed for Route 2, with minor changes to morning sailings and more significant changes to afternoon and evening departures. Initially this schedule runs up to the end of March, but it seems likely that the core service could remain broadly the same through next summer. [Note: schedules for the remainder of 2018 will be published by the end of September]

Here’s what the changes to the schedule will look like. Note that the departure times will no longer be identical from both ends of the route:HSB At our November FAC meeting we will need to consider whether any adjustments should be made to the Gabriola ferry schedule to accommodate connections with the Route 2.

Do you use the ferry to/from Horseshoe Bay? How will these changes affect your journey? Please give us your views using the comment box below.

 

BC Ferries confirms summer weekend sailings are here to stay

After a two-summer trial in 2016 and 2017, BC Ferries has confirmed that the extra weekend sailings at 1.50pm from Gabriola and 2.25pm from Nanaimo will be back next summer and each summer thereafter.

Following a request from the Ferry Advisory Committee in 2015, the ferry corporation agreed to a two-year trial to overcome some of the overloading that was occurring at peak summer weekends.  BC Ferries has indicated that as these sailings are above the minimum service levels outlined in the Coastal Ferry Services Contract, the corporation retains the flexibility to review if traffic or financial conditions change in the future. “Of course, if any reductions were to be considered, BC Ferries would first consult the FAC” said Darin Guenette, BC Ferries’ Public Affairs Manager.

While welcoming this decision, the FAC has already submitted a “Significant Service Request” (SSR) to BC Ferries asking for the extra weekend sailings to be provided year-round, and not just for the 11 weeks of peak summer. That request was officially received by BC Ferries on September 15.

FAC Co-Chair John Hodgkins hopes that BC Ferries will look favourably on the request, pointing out that the past two years has seen traffic grow by more than 8% on the Gabriola route and outside July and August, the mid-afternoon service gap has created overloads on successive weekend ferries from Easter right through to Thanksgiving.  “We have asked BCF to consider year-round operation” he said, “but if that turns out not to be economic, we have asked them to consider extending the period of operation from Easter to Thanksgiving in future years.”

BC Ferries expects to make a decision on the FAC request no later than December 15.

August ferry traffic hits a new peak

Ferry traffic to and from Gabriola is the highest this decade, according to figures released this week by BC Ferries

August’s traffic statistics show 2,000 more vehicles and almost 7,000 more passengers during the month than in August 2015 – meaning that so far in 2017 vehicle traffic has risen by 6.1% – or, put another way, that’s 10,000 more vehicles (5,000 each way) that have been squeezed onto our ferry.

Little wonder then that line-ups and delays are getting longer.

But what’s the answer?  BC Ferries tells us that a new, larger ferry is slated for 2026 – but that’s 9 years away, so must we endure ever longer delays until then, or is there a more creative solution to the problem?  Over the coming months we need to explore every possible option to lessen the pressure and we will be inviting the community to contribute to that process.

Watch this space.

Summer line-up blues

If the ferry line-ups are anything to go by, we’re in for a bumper summer here on Gabriola.  Last year was busy enough, but early signs are that ferry traffic could be another 5% up on last summer – with much of that extra traffic trying to squeeze onto ferries that are already bursting at the seams.

For residents, businesses and visitors alike this brings with it the frustration of long waits and progressive delays to the ferry as the crews do their best to fill every last inch of deckspace.  So, with some important updates since we last published this post, here are some hints to make queueing for the ferry on Gabriola safer and less stressful for everyone:

  1. The ferry line-up starts opposite the Skol pub on North Road and extends up the hill, then round the corner into Taylor Bay Road. If you’re first in line, please stop behind the hatched area and leave this space clear for emergency vehicles and those medical patients who have been issued an authorisation for priority boarding. (note that the “Stop” sign will be moved soon to the start of the hatched area)
  2. The ferry has space for about 70 vehicles (fewer if there are large trucks or trailers on board) and a sign on Taylor Bay Road indicates the point at which that capacity may be reached and you may find yourself waiting for the next ferry. The position of the sign assumes that there will be no gaps in the ferry line-up.
  3. When you join the line-up, please park close to the vehicle in front of you – don’t leave a large gap, as that will make the line-up longer for everyone. Sunshine or Shade – please park within 1 metre of the vehicle in front. If it’s hot, open your windows or take a walk! Dog owners should take their pets (on a leash) and find some shade for them.
  4. At the junction with Taylor Bay Road, the new road construction has removed the steepest part of the hill, so please don’t leave gaps there any more.  Take extra care here if you get out of your car, the road shoulder drops away steeply!
  5. Large trucks may wait in the oversize vehicle bay on North Road. If they arrived before you, please let them into the line-up when the ferry starts loading.
  6. Once the line-up extends into Taylor Bay Road, please use the turning bay on the right to join the line-up. Don’t U-turn on the highway – and don’t block the turning bay.
  7. If the line-up extends beyond the turning bay, please follow the signs to the next U-turn point at the junction with Ivory Way. U-turns along Taylor Bay Road are dangerous and you may cause an accident if you ignore the warning signs. RCMP Officers regularly patrol this section of road and may issue violation tickets to drivers making illegal U-turns.
  8. If the line-up reaches the narrow bridge at Mallett Creek, please observe the “No stopping on pavement” signs and don’t park on the bridge.
  9. On exceptionally busy days, the line-up can extend as far as Ivory Way. If it does, don’t block the turning bay (or the entrance to the campground) – go down Ivory Way to the turning point and join the line-up in Ivory Way. Don’t queue on Taylor Bay Road beyond the campground.
  10. Stay safe and remember the five golden rules:
  • Don’t leave gaps in the line-up
  • Don’t let your engine idle for long periods
  • Don’t U-turn on the highway, you may cause an accident
  • Don’t open your doors without checking for passing traffic – and bikes
  • Don’t stand in the roadway for that chat – stand away from the traffic!

Remember also that ferries from Gabriola are always busiest during the morning – if you can, leave your journey until later in the day when ferries are less busy. Check out our Best Times to Travel page for a handy guide to which ferries are likely to be full. If you don’t need to take your car, don’t! Think transit; think Gertie