Extra weekend sailings are on the way ….

BC Ferries’ website this week revealed that the mid-afternoon sailings at weekends will return to the schedule for the busier weekends this winter, starting with Christmas and New Year.

The latest update to our ferry schedule indicates that the “missing” weekend sailings at 1.50pm from Gabriola and 2.25pm from Nanaimo will be back in the schedule  over the following weekends:

  • Saturday December 23 / Sunday December 24 (Christmas)
  • Saturday December 30 / Sunday December 31 (New Year)
  • Saturday February 10 / Sunday February 11 (BC Family Day Weekend)
  • Saturdays March 17, 24 / Sundays March 18, 25 (Schools Spring Break)
  • Saturday March 31 (Easter weekend)

We anticipate that further additional dates may be announced soon.

Earlier this year, your Ferry Advisory Committee submitted an outline business case for the reinstatement of these weekend sailings, which were removed from the schedule in 2014 as part of the previous government’s efficiency savings.  In 2016, they were reinstated  during July and August for a 2-year trial which has now been confirmed as permanent. The FAC’s request for reinstatement on a year-round basis (or at least for a longer period each year) is due to be determined this month.

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Province to start its review of BC Ferries in January

The much anticipated government review of BC Ferries is due to start in the new year, according to Transportation Minister Claire Trevena. In a press release issued yesterday, the Ministry said:

This review will identify what improvements can be made to the existing model and the Coastal Ferry Services Contract to better serve the needs of ferry users and coastal communities.

Under the terms of reference, the review will:

  • Examine whether the contracted ferry services are being provided for in a manner that supports the public interest.
  • Consider what changes to the price cap and regulatory model would ensure the ferry system is working as efficiently and effectively as possible for all British Columbians, and, in particular, for the ferry users and communities who depend on this essential service.
  • Identify opportunities and recommend actions to enhance ferry service delivery and/or reduce costs without impacting existing service.

The review will not consider bringing BC Ferries back into government. The review is expected to cost approximately $250,000, inclusive of all fees for technical expertise, research and analysis under the terms of reference to support the review process.

The Province has appointed Blair Redlin, former deputy minister of transportation and former CEO of the BC Transportation Financing Authority, as a special adviser to oversee the review. Redlin will report to the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, with a final report to be delivered to government by June 2018.

Many have argued for a return to direct government control of BC Ferries, but the decision to exclude consideration of that from the review comes as no real surprise given the levels of capital borrowing needed to fund the renewal of BC Ferries’ aging infrastructure. Will this review do more than tinker around the edges? Only time will tell.

Also missing from the review’s Terms of Reference is any mention of input from the public – or indeed from Ferry Advisory Committees. However, the Minister assured FAC Chairs this summer that our voices would be heard and your FAC will be preparing a submission in the coming weeks to set out the issues that are most important for Gabriola’s ferry users. Watch this space!

Traffic up, reliability down in Spring 2017 Quarterly Report

Every quarter, BC Ferries reports to the BC Ferry Commission on the performance of each route. The latest quarterly report (April to June 2017) confirms what many of us have seen this year – that as traffic has continued to increase, on-time performance has suffered and the number of overloaded sailings has increased significantly.

Spring 2017 saw the Vehicle Capacity Utilisation (the percentage of deck space occupied) rise to 58.3% – up by 4% compared to the same quarter last year, as shown in the graph below. Note that this graph expresses utilisation against the original deck capacity of 70, although BC Ferries now calculates the vessel’s capacity as 64.Slide3As traffic increases however, on-time performance is more difficult to maintain and as this next chart shows, the percentage of “on-time” departures in the quarter plummeted to just 86.1% compared to the past two years, when over 97% of departures left on time.  On-time performance at this low level is more typically seen only in peak summer and this quarter’s performance is the lowest recorded in Spring for the past five years.Slide4One reason for the slip in on-time performance is the number of overloads that have to be managed – which increased in Spring 2017 to almost 10% of all sailings. Each time an overload occurs, the loading process takes longer while crew members squeeze in as many vehicles as possible. The number of sailings reported as overloaded this Spring was up by more than two-thirds compared to Spring 2016 and was almost on a par with the peak summer months last year.  Slide5The full Quarterly Report to the BC Ferry Commissioner can be downloaded here 

 

Nanaimo News Bulletin – Don’t believe the Gabriola ferry schedule

If you (or your visitors) are looking for the Gabriola ferry schedule – don’t look for it in the June 29 Nanaimo News Bulletin. The ferry schedule published in BC Ferries’ ad on page A34 contains multiple errors.

The 1.50pm from Gabriola and 2.25pm from Nanaimo are shown incorrectly as not operating Saturdays or Sundays – which they do now, every weekend until September 3.

Several ferries are missing from the evening schedule – with the 6.40pm and 9.30pm sailings from Gabriola not shown, nor the 7.15pm and 10pm (except Wed) sailings from Nanaimo.

The correct schedule for the summer season can be found here or on the BC Ferries website

 

Extra weekend sailings start on July 1

The extra early afternoon sailings on Saturdays and Sundays start up again this Saturday (July 1) and run each Saturday and Sunday through until September 3.

The extra ferry leaves Gabriola at 1.50pm on Saturdays and Sundays, returning from Nanaimo at 2.25pm (matching the weekday schedule).

This is the second year of a two-year pilot agreed by BC Ferries following a request from the Ferry Advisory Committee.  Results from 2016 demonstrated that the reinstatement of these sailings generated extra traffic at weekends and the FAC is hopeful that the pilot project will be made permanent each summer after 2017.

FAC meeting moves to Gabriola Commons

The FAC Spring meeting with BC Ferries takes place on Monday April 24, starting at 3pm, with a new venue – upstairs at Gabriola Commons, 675 North Road.

Members of the public are invited to attend this meeting, but are reminded that this is NOT an open house session. You will be welcome to speak on a particular topic, but please contact the Chair by email  at gabriola.fac@gmail.com ahead of the meeting. We will try and ensure that time is available for anyone who wishes to speak.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting can be downloaded here.

Ferry terminal parking Survey

The FAC would like to thank all who have responded to our online survey to determine public opinion on the need for time limits for parking at Gabriola’s ferry terminal.  The survey has now closed and results will be announced at the forthcoming FAC meeting on April 24.

Analysis of the responses has uncovered one respondent who made a supreme effort to distort the outcome of the survey – either intentionally or otherwise – by submitting no less than 450 identical responses from the same computer.  Needless to say, these responses will be ignored in the analysis. So, if your IP address is 24.108.156.161 – thank you for your time and effort, but unfortunately only your first response will be taken into account.

John Hodgkins, FAC Chair.