There’s good news for most, though not all, ferry users in our new ferry schedule announced today by BC Ferries for introduction on April 1.

In response to the community’s stated preferences, BC Ferries will introduce a revised service pattern, based on the preferred Option 1, with the first departure from Gabriola moving to 6:15am and the last ferry leaving Nanaimo at 11pm each day. (click on the schedule below for a printable copy)

Schedule for publicationThe main features of the new schedule are:

  • The 5:30 am and 6:30 am departures from Gabriola are combined at 6:15am every day
  • Student ferry times both move forward by 5 minutes (to 7:35 am and 3:45 pm)
  • Daytime ferries will run at 75 minute intervals throughout the day, with no gaps in service on weekdays
  • Departure times will apply every day, year round, making the schedule easier to remember
  • Re-introduced mid afternoon sailings on weekdays to reduce peak hour overloads in Nanaimo
  • The mid-evening ferry will leave Nanaimo at 9pm (not 8:20) allowing greater flexibility for after-school and sporting activities
  • Evening ferries will leave Nanaimo at 9pm daily, 10pm (except Wednesdays) and 11pm daily.
  • Last ferry will leave Gabriola at 10:30pm every night, except Wednesdays (9:30pm)

Unfortunately, there will no longer be a departure from Gabriola at 5:30am on weekdays, meaning the earliest connections to Vancouver will be the 7:45am sailing from Duke Point or 8:30am from Departure Bay.

In its feedback to BC Ferries following the survey, the FAC reluctantly accepted that the only way they were going to overcome the long gaps in the daytime service, the frequent service delays and excessive overloads would be to move the start and finish times of either the early shift or the late shift and to allow extra turn-round time between departures at the busiest times of day. This would either require the first ferry to run later, or the last ferry to run earlier each day. Two-thirds of the ferry users who responded to the survey told us that the late evening ferries should be prioritised.

In an ideal world, of course, the FAC would prefer to go back to the schedule we had before April 2014; unfortunately the cuts imposed by the Provincial government will not be reversed; the reduced number of sailings (and the savings in labour and fuel costs that went along with that) still apply and BC Ferries must still achieve the government’s financial targets. It’s very obvious, though, that the decision to reduce midday services last April has had a significant impact on ferry use, resulting in traffic and revenue dropping by about 5% – putting our ferry service at risk of yet more cuts in the years ahead. In 2013 (before the cuts were imposed) more than 65% of vehicles and 60% of passengers taking the ferry from Gabriola did so between 8.30am and 3.30pm. Both government and BC Ferries assumed that ferry users would change their travel plans and travel at different times – but, as we’ve seen, it hasn’t worked out that way. The fact that our daytime ferries were already full for much of the year has meant that many people simply aren’t travelling as often. Hopefully this improved daytime service will go some way to recovering lost business and minimise the likelihood of further cuts.

The final choice of a ferry schedule for 2015 would always be in the hands of BC Ferries, but it was at the FAC’s instigation that the company provided three alternative options for community feedback last October. In its report, the ferry advisory committee acknowledged that while Option 1 was the community’s preferred option, the retiming of early morning and mid-evening services would seriously affect some shift workers, especially those who start work before 7am and have, until now, relied on the 5:30am ferry.  In our discussions with BC Ferries we made it clear that this could result in some people no longer being able to both continue in their present job and live on Gabriola. We therefore asked BC Ferries to provide as much advance notice as possible to help those most affected to prepare for any change.

BC Ferries’ media release announcing the new schedule can be downloaded here.

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  1. Well this is terrible for my commute. Now I have an extra 15 minutes in the morning and an extra 40 minutes in the evening added to my long work day.

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