Fix For Route 6 petition efforts updated
BY DAVID COURTNEY
Last week signified day 100 for the Fix For Route 6 petition. For the nearly 2,000 petitioners who have taken the time to support the initiative to have two-ferry service on the Vesuvius-Crofton route, a sincere thank you from our small, tight-knit group of dedicated volunteers.
The petition is still alive on Change.Org for those who would like to sign on. It’s a perfect way to keep in touch as we move forward. On Monday, April 4, our MLA Adam Olsen graciously introduced me on behalf of the patrons of Route 6 to the B.C. Legislature and shortly thereafter tabled our petition. We owe Mr. Olsen a debt of gratitude for being so proactive and engaged on behalf of his constituents/petitioners on Salt Spring and in North Sannich. He has been fully committed in raising the awareness of our ferry issues with Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) Rob Fleming and BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins.
Most have read the dire predictions for this spring and summer coming from BC Ferries (BCF). The interesting part on Route 6 is that sailing waits, delays and cancellations are nothing new. Being underserved, especially during the peak demand summer season, seems to have become the accepted norm. BCF has elected not to develop more car park containment areas over the last 45 years. Meanwhile our community continues to grow with the need for more service, along with car park containment areas. Yes, the Vesuvius terminal upgrade has been approved for 2027, which will provide 25 more car parking spots, and don’t forget the Crofton terminal upgrade by 2030. Perhaps the change-out of the MV Quinsam in 2035 at the end of its service life will come to pass as well. We simply haven’t kept up with demand and now we have a crisis. Route 6 is especially important because it transports our dangerous goods and a plethora of goods and services each and every day from the big island.
Where do we go from here? Basically our plea for improved service on both Route 4 and 6 is with Minister Fleming.There is an existing agreement from 1992 between the Islands Trust and MoTI. The concept of BCF creating parking containment areas out of our roadways is not catered to in the agreement. However, it has been a longstanding practice that has never been formally contested by the Islands Trust. Our two trustees have requested Trust staff to engage the Ministry of Transportation on the merits and intent of the agreement.
It’s time and long overdue to either address our parking containment areas or ramp up ferry frequency, or ideally a combination of both. Let’s put vehicles on the ferries instead of creating traffic gridlock and one-way gauntlets to our two ferry terminals as well as the Crofton terminal. The Fix for Route Six does exactly that for Vesuvius Bay and the Crofton ferry terminals, promoting sailing frequency over car park containment areas. The relief is immediate. We have the availability of both ferries currently. The logistical problem for BCF is finding adequate crew to man the second vessel. A tie-up float for use when only one vessel is in use during low demand periods after 7 p.m. would also be needed. This is the only infrastructure cost, if deemed necessary. The Fix For Route 6 is the most cost-effective solution in the inter-island network and mitigates traffic gridlock at all three ferry terminals.
Last June the Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) tendered a service request to use the MV Quinitsa on Route 4 — Fulford Harbour to Swartz Bay — to provide extra sailings during June, July and August. The patrons of Route 6 have cordially asked the FAC to consider having BCF take those resources and use them on Route 6 for the same time frame this summer, creating an on the hour sailing at Vesuvius Bay and Crofton. Some say it’s just a hunch that we will siphon off traffic at Fulford Harbour as ferry patrons begin to migrate to Route 6 if there is no compelling reason to use Route 4. We believe this to be case as the data shows it’s currently happening now. If we could migrate 20 vehicles every two hours that means 400 feet less vehicle traffic lined up on the roadway in Fulford.
In January, BC Ferries vice president of strategy and community engagement Brian Anderson tried to quell the petition in an advertisement in the Driftwood. He had very little success as patrons simply didn’t buy into Ferries’ flat-line graph suggesting vessel capacity and demand were matched. Patrons on routes 4 and 6 are simply fed up with our service during peak demand hours at all three terminals. Of the commitments made in January by BCF management, one has been honoured, assuming the MV Quinsam due to arrive on April 13 shows up. This vessel will effectively increase the vehicle capacity by two vehicles over the MV Bowen Queen used for the last two summers. With no substantial changes, stand by for another summer of frustration, discontent from sailing waits and traffic gridlock on Route 6.
BC Ferries management seems to have their fair share of issues these days. That too will pass. Along with the amendments to the Coastal Ferries Act contained in Bill 7, change is in the air at BC Ferries and with their governance model.
In the interim, let’s keep the momentum going and campaign individually and as a group for improvements to our ferry service to and from Salt Spring Island at every opportunity. A website and social media app is planned in order to convey how our ferry service is impacting businesses, our livelihoods and personal travel this spring and summer.
The writer is a frequent user of Route 6 who has initiated the Fix For Route 6 petition.