For Salt Spring Islanders who use the Vesuvius-Crofton ferry route with any regularity, last Thursday was a golden day.
That’s when BC Ferries announced it would be bringing the Bowen Queen onto that route in the spring of 2020 to service the busy season on the island.
The Bowen Queen is rated as being able to carry 61 “automobile equivalents” compared to the Quinitsa’s supposed 44. While there is concern about the Bowen’s capacity for commercial vehicles, i.e. the big trucks, the extra space will be much appreciated by residents and visitors.
Islanders angry about the overloads caused by use of the smaller Quinitsa when the Howe Sound Queen was retired in June had suggested the Bowen Queen as a solution. At the time the ferry corporation’s response was that the vessel was needed for the Alert Bay-Port McNeill route.
How the Quinitsa will fare over the winter remains to be seen, but lower traffic demand will no doubt make it a better situation for travellers than it was this summer.
Although many residents have said that Salt Spring felt busier than ever due to tourists this summer, the ferry traffic numbers do not support that observation. Traffic was up slightly between Fulford and Swartz Bay, and on the Long Harbour route in July and August this year, but it was down markedly between Vesuvius and Crofton: Vehicle traffic was down seven per cent in July and more than 11 per cent in August from 2018 levels. No doubt locals were not venturing off island as much due to the mayhem and word got out that trying to get on or off Salt Spring via Route 6 could be an exercise in frustration.
While BC Ferries deserved the criticism it received earlier this year for not having a realistic plan in place to deal with the Vesuvius-Crofton situation, it also deserves credit for hearing community concerns and coming up with an alternate arrangement for the peak seasons until 2022.
BC Ferries also has plans to improve the experience at the Crofton and Vesuvius terminals, which they aim to share with the public in November. We look forward to hearing what those plans may be as well.