Next FAC meeting now to be held on June 10

The postponed meeting of the Ferry Advisory Committee is now scheduled for Friday, June 10 2016 at the Gabriola Arts Council Hall (the old WI Hall) on South Road, starting at 10.15am.

Members of the public are welcome to attend, but we would remind you that this is not an open-house meeting, rather a business meeting between the FAC and BC Ferries. Should you wish to speak on any particular topic, please contact the Chair at gabriola.fac@gmail.com before the meeting, so that we can ensure a time slot is available for you.

More weekend ferries this Summer

Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee today received the news it had been waiting for since December; agreement from BC Ferries to introduce an extra round trip between Gabriola and Nanaimo on Summer weekends, plugging the 2.5 hour early afternoon service gap on Summer Saturdays and Sundays.

The extra services will initially operate for a two –year pilot between late June and early September 2016 and 2017, with an opportunity to review performance after the 2016 summer season.

Since the cuts imposed by Provincial government in 2014, the FAC has worked with BC Ferries to refine ferry schedules and improve the reliability of our ferry service. A schedule change in April 2015 helped improve on-time performance and removed mid-day gaps in the service on Mondays to Fridays – but at weekends, when traffic volumes were lower for most of the year, the 1.50pm departure from Gabriola and 2.25pm from Nanaimo weren’t reinstated – and the services either side continued to overload throughout Summer 2015.

Committee members were informed at their November meeting with BC Ferries that extra services would only be considered if a clear business case could be made – a task made more difficult by the inability to obtain route-specific financial information from BC Ferries. Undeterred, FAC representatives met with BCF managers in December 2015 to present evidence supporting the reinstatement of the early afternoon sailings on summer weekends.

The problems were evident; whereas traffic levels on most BC Ferries routes have recovered to pre-2014 levels, traffic on the Gabriola route has yet to return to the levels carried before the 2014 service cuts – and the recovery has been slowest during the peak summer months, reflecting a continuing loss of tourist traffic. Data provided by BC Ferries confirmed that the reduced weekend service had been unable to deliver adequate daytime capacity in Summer 2015 – and the FAC argued that this was due in large part to the missing early afternoon sailings.

This decision by BC Ferries follows three months of critical analysis by BCF management, who also had to convince the Province that the extra services would not dilute the financial savings achieved in 2014.

FAC Chair John Hodgkins welcomed today’s news, especially since similar requests on some other routes had failed to deliver the stringent business case required by BC Ferries.

“In our negotiation with BC Ferries, we were able to demonstrate that the potential extra revenue would make a significant contribution towards covering the cost of an additional round trip – and we explored with BC Ferries how they might deliver the extra services at marginal cost. We acknowledged that outside the peak summer period the case was less convincing, but we pressed BC Ferries to identify a solution that would not impact on services at other times of the day.”

“We urged BC Ferries to consider a one-year trial, so today’s commitment to piloting the improved schedule over two summers is very good news. It means we will have the opportunity to review how the service performs after the 2016 summer season and explore options for extending the trial beyond Summer 2017.”

“Most importantly, we have a decision from BC Ferries that will hopefully encourage more tourists back to Gabriola in 2016 – and bring a much-needed boost to our local economy.”

The extra services will operate each weekend from June 29 until September 6, 2016. Full details of the summer 2016 schedule can be found now on the BC Ferries website.

The islander’s guide to catching a ferry on Gabriola

When summer approaches, our ferry gets busier – and with that comes longer line-ups at busy times of the day.

As Gabriolans, we’re hardened to that, of course, but with many newcomers and visitors to the island 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 pull forward to the stop line and leave space in front for motorcycles and emergency vehicles, which will be loaded onto the ferry first.
  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!
  4. At the junction with Taylor Bay Road, we understand you may not want to park on the steepest part of the hill, but please park as close as possible to the junction and make sure you can see the vehicle in front of you in the line-up. Don’t get left behind because you didn’t notice the line-up had moved!
  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 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. Illegal U-turns may also get you a traffic violation ticket.
  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 unnecessary 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 – stay out of the traffic!

Remember also that ferries from Gabriola are always busiest during the morning – especially in the summer months. There are several ways you can make your journey less stressful:

  • If you can, leave your journey until later in the day when ferries are less busy
  • Visit our webpage for the Best Times to Travel and print off our handy guide.
  • Check out the Gabriola Ferry Cameras before you set off
  • Visit the BC Ferries website for any Service Notices affecting the Gabriola ferry
  • Allow plenty of time if you must catch a particular ferry or have a connection to make.
  • If you don’t need to take your car, don’t! Think transit; think Gertie

Sailing cancellations – Saturday, March 12

Four weeks ago, BC Ferries announced the cancellation of the 1.10pm from Nanaimo and 3.05pm from Gabriola on Saturday, March 12 to accommodate the testing of the marine evacuation equipment on MV Quinsam.  This is a regulatory requirement imposed by Transport Canada.

Following concerns expressed by the FAC about the long gap this would cause, BC Ferries has agreed to provide a substitute water taxi service leaving Nanaimo at 1.10pm and 2.25pm, and returning from Gabriola at 1.50pm and 3.05pm.

Customers are reminded that there will be no vehicle ferry leaving Nanaimo after 11.55am until 3.45pm, and no vehicle ferry leaving Gabriola after 12.35pm until the 4.20pm departure on Saturday, March 12.

Passenger fare discounts in March – but no change to Experience Card fares

BC Ferries today announced further fare discounts between March 10-29, with 30% discounts on selected sailings on Mondays to Thursdays and Saturdays.  The standard round-trip passenger fare between Nanaimo and Gabriola will be $7.85 for adults and $3.95 for children – and for BC Seniors on Monday to Thursday.

For anyone with an Experience Card, though, standard passenger fares are already discounted  by 42%, so your fares won’t change.

These are the sailings on which the 30% discount applies:

fares

No bridge to Gabriola, says Minister

Government-funded study concludes costs outweigh benefits of bridge to Gabriola Island

MINISTRY OF TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE NEWS RELEASE

Results of the Gabriola Island Fixed Link Feasibility Study conclude that while a bridge appears to be technically feasible, it would not be a cost-effective alternative to the current ferry link.

Because of this, the Government of British Columbia will not consider a fixed link to Gabriola Island at this time.

“There is simply not enough compelling evidence to proceed with further work on a fixed link to Gabriola Island,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Todd Stone. “Our goal is ensure coastal communities are connected in an affordable, efficient and sustainable manner. This study shows that continuation of a coastal ferry service for Gabriola Island residents is the best way to achieve that goal.”

The study examined alignments, road connections, construction cost, operation and maintenance costs, travel time, reliability and flexibility for potential users. It also includes a high‐level assessment of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of such a connection. Feasible options were evaluated against the existing ferry service.

The study confirms that a number of combinations of possible road and bridge options exist, ranging in cost from $258 million to $520 million. The average estimated project cost is $359 million, on which the business case was based. However, the costs outweigh the measured benefits.

Beyond the business case, the study notes there are other significant considerations for government if the project were to proceed, including archaeological and environmental conditions.

The report was prepared for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure by CH2MHill.

Learn more:

The Gabriola Island Fixed Link Feasibility Study is available on the ministry’s website:
http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/18C0E9F4D7AF4EBA8E96F10D10B37FD3

 

FAC public meeting on November 2

The Fall meeting of the Ferry Advisory Committee takes place this Monday (November 2) starting at 3pm in the GAC Hall (behind the Post Office) in Gabriola.

FAC members have asked BC Ferries for information about the results of the recent passenger fare reduction and for an explanation of the level of savings achieved by the 2014 service cuts to our route. We have also asked BC Ferries to provide a review of the impacts of the April 2015 schedule change including, specifically, the early afternoon gap in the schedule at weekends.

With a five-week experimental fare discount on vehicle fares starting later this month, we will be asking BC Ferries whether the FAC’s plan (which we discussed at the May meeting) for long-term reductions to evening and weekend fares could now become a reality.

Members of the public are invited to come along and listen to the discussion on Monday; anyone wishing to speak at the meeting should make their wish known to the Chair before the start of the meeting.  In my absence, Steven Earle will be taking the chair for this meeting.

The full agenda can be found here .