The mid-evening break instituted after the service cuts of 2014 has created serious and ongoing hardship for Gabriola ferry riders – in particular families with children and teenagers who participate in Nanaimo-based after school activities. In fact, when the community was surveyed regarding which part of the service island residents most wanted to see restored, responses were almost evenly split between the option of restoring early morning service and eliminating the mid-evening break, with emotions running extremely high on both sides.
In June the FAC proposed to BC Ferries a few small adjustments to the schedule that we believe could provide significant relief for those impacted by the break, while at the same time improving on-time performance. Parents told us that while the problem is created by having a gap of 1 hr and 45 minutes between the two mid-evening sailings from Nanaimo, changing the schedule so that the 7:15 left as little as 20 minutes later would make a critical difference for a large percentage of riders. Keeping this in mind, as well as the need for the half-hour meal break for officers (which starts as soon as the last car is unloaded and is as close as is practical to the middle of the shift), the FAC attempted to rework the evening schedule in such a way that it would better meet the needs of both crew and passengers.
BC Ferries has informed us that they will be implementing the new schedule on September 3rd. While we realize that no schedule change will please everyone, we hope that this adjustment will provide a small measure of relief for some of those who have been negatively impacted by the break.
The FAC, with the strong support of the Gabriola RCMP, also continues to press BCF and MOTI for a solution to our serious ferry line up issues.
BC Ferries has updated the Terminal Development Plan for Descanso Bay. This plan has now been officially approved by BC Ferries management and is well worth a few minutes of your time to review. The FAC looks forward to continuing to engage with BC Ferries on design considerations and potential timelines for implementation.
Please click the image below to download the file.
As most of you are aware, the provincial government recently agreed to fund restoration of some of the sailings lost in 2014 on some routes. On the Gabriola-Nanaimo route we were first offered just one choice—the restoration of early morning sailings. The FAC requested the alternative of restoring sailings in the mid-evening gap, and then Gabriolans were asked to choose between the two options. The vote was almost exactly evenly split, and so the final decision has had to be made by FAC members, knowing that just about half of Gabriolans would not get what they wanted. In the meantime, we realized that the early morning option did not guarantee getting onto the first sailing out of Departure Bay, made it difficult for people starting a 7 AM shift in Nanaimo and was sufficiently tight to create a high risk of getting behind schedule early in the day. We asked BC Ferries three times to make some changes, and they finally agreed to have the first two sailings of the AM option leave 10 minutes earlier than first proposed.
The 10 members of the FAC have now agreed (by a margin of 9 to 1) that the best option for Gabriola is to restore the early sailings. However this was a very difficult decision and the FAC takes the feedback we received from the community about the mid-evening gap very seriously. We will make it a top priority to work with BC Ferries to make changes to the evening schedule so that the gap between the 19:15 and 21:00 departures from Nanaimo can be reduced. We believe that slight alterations to the schedule could improve on-time performance and simultaneously provide better service for those who expressed such clear disappointment with the evening gap. We will also work to ensure that that the evening gap is eliminated when the schedule is revised for the two new Island 47 ferries and will advocate for changes to be made to the weekend schedules so that they match the new weekday schedules.
The revised schedule is expected to come into effect on April 27th. As of that date the two mid-afternoon weekend sailings (13:50 and 14:25) will also be restored throughout the year.
As directed by the provincial government, BC Ferries is restoring some of the service that was cut from minor routes in 2014. On the Gabriola-Nanaimo route this will include restoration of all of the mid-afternoon weekend sailings–year-round. It will also include restoration of a single additional round-trip on weekdays, according to one of the following options:
Option 1 Restoration of the early morning sailing on weekdays, leaving Gabriola at 5:25 am and Nanaimo at 5:55 am (shown in red). That 5:25 am departure should allow Gabriolans to make it to Departure Bay in time for the 6:15 am sailing to Vancouver. With this option most of the rest of the sailing times will be the same as what we have now.
Option 2 Restoration of the mid-evening sailings on weekdays. This involves some juggling of the schedule starting in the middle of the afternoon (although the 3:45, 5:00 and 6:10 pm sailings from Nanaimo would not change). It also means that the last sailing of the day on weekdays would be 11:30 pm from Nanaimo (compared with 11:00 pm now). The weekends would stay very close to what we have now.
The FAC has created an on-line survey so that Gabriolans can let us know which of these options they prefer. We urge respondents to consider not just your personal preference but also what you believe is in the best interests of the whole community. We’re hoping for a strong response to the survey and a clear preference for one of the two options. If the result is close to 50:50, then the FAC will have to consider all the information we have and make a decision that we feel is in the best interest of all Gabriolans. Whichever choice is made, it is expected that the changes will take effect on or before May 1st. It’s important to remember that we are going to have 2 ferries operating on this route within about 3 years, and that the schedule will change again at that time.
The survey is available here. Printed copies of the survey are also available in the library. Please take the time to let us know what you think. BC Ferries wants to implement the new schedule as soon as possible, so time is of the essence. The survey will close at midnight on Wednesday, March 27 (printed copies must be received at the Gabriola Library by 7pm Wednesday, March 27).
Good news! The Lunch Bunch has recently received many e-transfer donations. This along with the anticipated February proceeds from Village Foods Community Card Program means that The Lunch Bunch will achieve its $3,000 goal.
The Lunch Bunch VF Community Card program will remain open until February 28th. This is so all the Lunch Bunch members, their wives, and friends have time to top up their cards one last time for us. If you wish, you can still contribute by buying a $100 Lunch Bunch VF Community Card. You get $100 in groceries and the Lunch Bunch fund raiser gets $5 from VF. For the rest of the year, The Lunch Bunch encourages everybody who has helped us achieve our goal so quickly through donations and VF to choose one of the other four 2019 VF card fundraisers and keep topping up your cards. The new cameras are coming soon!
Thanks to all who donated, and special thanks to Village Foods for their Community Card program – what an easy (and tasty) way to give back to our community. Remember there are still four great organizations that need your support.
You may have already heard that yesterday the NDP government announced that they are increasing service on 10 ferry routes that were cut in 2014, restoring 2,700 round-trip sailings for people living in coastal communities. Route 19 (the Gabriola-Nanaimo route) is among those routes slated to have our service levels restored.
In addition to the news about the service cuts, the Ministry released Blair Redlin’s report on the ferry service. The Redlin report (available here) is a fairly comprehensive document that goes well beyond consideration of service levels. For example, there is a great deal of focus on climate change adaptation vis a vis propulsion systems, and the issue of ships not being built domestically also comes in for a lot of scrutiny. It’s well worth a read.
We look forward to bringing you more information in the coming weeks of what implementation could actually look like.