Ferry passengers upset by small boat
Rough first week for Quinitsa
The BC Ferries vessel Quinitsa has made few friends during its first week or so in service on Route 6, with an especially bad day experienced by people travelling between Vesuvius and Crofton on Thursday.
Multiple sailing overloads were compounded by a scheduled dangerous cargo sailing and left some passengers heading to Salt Spring to wait three hours in Crofton before getting on a boat.
One of the drivers to get caught up in the traffic was School District 64 bus driver Julianna Slomka, who took a grade one class to the raptors centre outside Duncan for a morning field trip. She described how another, empty school bus had to hold a place in line for the morning trip while she picked up the class. Later that morning when she arrived at Crofton hoping to be in time for the 12:55 sailing home, she was told there wouldn’t be room.
“Usually we are parked by the park and the kids can get out, have lunch and play. This time we were way up the road,” Slomka wrote on the SSI Community Discussion Forum public Facebook page. “The ferry worker says it’s full and the next sailing is dangerous cargo so we will have to wait till the 3:35 ferry. Can you imagine being stuck that long with a busload of kids?”
While the class and their adult attendants were permitted to travel as walk-on passengers, Slomka had to stay with the bus, which left the school district short a bus and a driver for part of the afternoon.
Many other drivers arrived after the dangerous cargo sailing and expected to wait an hour for their ferry but had to wait a couple of sailings instead. By 4:30 p.m. cars were parked all the way up Chaplin Street to the turn-off at Crofton Road heading toward the Shell gas station. Most of those people had to wait for the 7:20 p.m. sailing.
BC Ferries said there was an unusual amount of traffic that day, and as best as they can tell there may have been a “perfect storm.” Graduation weekend was one potential cause for extra traffic. Humphries suggested seniors may be taking advantage of discounts in Duncan and the final day of the week’s discounted sailings on Thursdays.
“It’s certainly not the experience we want our customers to have,” Humphries said.
BC Ferries’ terminal manager is collecting data to analyze the situation, she added.
The level of frustration is so great that a new Facebook group has been activated called SSI Ferry Lineup Alert.
“This is a community group designed for Salt Spring residents to let each other know about ferry lineups, waits and other issues as we approach another busy summer and the potentially frustrating delays that go along with the increased loads, etc. Let’s use this as a tool to help reduce our summer ferry rage,” wrote creator Rebecca Leanne.
Members of the Salt Spring Ferry Advisory Committee were also caught up in Thursday’s traffic overloads. Both Peter Grove and Matt Steffich were travelling back to Salt Spring that afternoon and experienced multiple sailing waits. Both were resigned to the situation, however, with knowledge the Quinitsa is scheduled to stay on the route into 2022.
Saanich North and the Islands MLA Adam Olsen has reported being bombarded with messages since the Quinitsa went into service on the route on June 5, and especially after Thursday’s complications. He has asked for people to share their concerns and feedback directly to his email address Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca and also to copy Transportation Minister Trevena at Claire.Trevena.MLA@leg.bc.ca and B.C. Ferries.
While the issue with school buses may not be a problem again for some time with the school year ending this month, BC Ferries said the idea of assured loading could be added to the agenda for its next public meeting with the Salt Spring FAC on July 9.
The meeting was rescheduled from its original date on May 17 because BC Ferries executives were unable to get on the ferry to Fulford.
For more on this story, see the June 19, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.