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.