Travelling by ferry between Salt Spring and Vancouver Island has become much more stressful in the past year.
It used to be that demand for space was high in summer months, and island residents adjusted their plans accordingly. But as anyone who has tried to leave the island via Fulford Harbour or Vesuvius in the past six months will attest, it can seem like summer on any weekday because of higher vehicle traffic. Arriving at either terminal a full hour in advance of the scheduled sailing time can be the only way to guarantee a spot on a boat. For people with important medical appointments in Duncan or Victoria, or a flight to catch in Sidney, the stress caused by not knowing whether or not they will be at their destination on time can be traumatizing.
People are already cringing at the thought of the smaller-capacity Quinitsa replacing the retiring Howe Sound Queen before next summer and for subsequent two years while new mid-size ships are built. The Vesuvius-Crofton (Route 6) problem will only get worse unless BC Ferries looks at making some changes to its scheduling or other operations.
BC Ferries says that overloads occurred on 23 per cent of all Route 6 sailings this year. While the corporation made a few minor schedule adjustments to increase capacity on Route 6 this summer, those changes did not have enough impact. Relying on a “schedule” for that route has been unreliable this year. The ship was on time for only 57 per cent of sailings from May through July. BC Ferries clearly needs to do more work on creating a schedule that has some semblance of reliability.
In the longer run, a significantly larger vessel on the route is not the answer, since there is no place to put more waiting traffic in Crofton or Vesuvius.
Community members could also contribute to a solution by carpooling more often. BC Ferries traffic stats reveal that vehicle traffic on Route 6 increased by 5.91 per cent over 2017‘s year-to-date levels by Sept. 30, for example, but passenger traffic was up only 3.87 per cent. That suggests a lot of cars with only one driver are taking up space on the boats.
Ferry waits and overloads may be a fact of life for the foreseeable future, but BC Ferries should do as much as it can to not leave islanders high and dry.