Friday, December 2, 2022
December 2, 2022

Use of Quinitsa for Fulford-Swartz Bay summer runs promoted

Following the submission of an online petition demanding two-ship service on the Crofton-Vesuvius ferry route, a second proposal to supplement Fulford-Swartz Bay summertime service has been made public.

Last week Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee (SSIFAC) chair Harold Swierenga released the committee’s suggestion that the MV Quinitsa, currently serving the Vesuvius-Crofton route (Route 6), be used to add extra sailings during peak times of the day in summer months between Fulford and Swartz Bay (Route 4).

The idea was submitted to BC Ferries in the form of a service request last August. (See sidebar below.)

In the meantime, Salt Spring resident David Courtney came up with the idea of using the Quinitsa as a second vessel continuously on Route 6 when the larger MV Quinsam becomes the permanent vessel on that route this spring. More than 1,900 people have supported that idea on a change.org petition site. Courtney has sought support from residents and politicians on Vancouver Island who are impacted by ferry-related traffic congestion in Crofton, as well as Salt Spring Islanders.

Brian Anderson, BC Ferries’ vice president of strategy and community engagement, has responded to Courtney’s idea on page 12 of this paper by stating that “Substantial service increases, such as adding a second ship onto a route, require investments in terminal infrastructure along with an amendment to the [Coastal Ferry Services] Contract. Dedicating a second ship to this route at this time is not feasible because there is no spare to deploy.” The corporation says it is also committed to other improvements on Route 6, in addition to making the Quinsam the year-round vessel, which can take 19 more vehicles than the Quinitsa and is easy to load.

“The SSIFAC does not consider the question of whether the Quinitsa or any other ferry could be better utilized on Route 4 or Route 6 to be an either/or question,” said Swierenga. “The Quinsam will provide a significant upgrade in service to Route 6 this spring, leaving the issues of Route 4 to be dealt with. When the ferry lineup in Fulford extends past the ‘pinch point,’ there is a whole village with hundreds of residents depending on one lane for traffic in both directions. There is, unfortunately, no other access and no side streets into which traffic can diverge. The non-ferry traffic going into Fulford is much heavier than the non-ferry traffic going down Vesuvius Bay Road toward the ferry terminal.”

He also said an additional danger point exists on Fulford-Ganges Road where it curves just past the Beaver Point Road turnoff when people are driving into Fulford.

“The road down to the terminal in Vesuvius is much straighter and motorists have a much clearer view of the entire traffic situation,” he said, adding that “Neither situation is acceptable from a safety standpoint, but there is at least some improvement coming to Route 6 this spring.”

Swierenga said “both Vesuvius and Crofton terminals are scheduled for redevelopment by the summer of 2027 and with the future coming of the twin Island Class ferries, there is an evolving solution to the vehicle lineup and ferry capacity problems on this route.”

BC Ferries has not stated its position on the SSIFAC proposal.

Courtney has expressed frustration about the SSIFAC position and is urging people who support his idea to express that to Swierenga, Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman and local trustee Peter Grove.

Following is the Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee rationale for using the MV Quinitsa on Route 4 as a supplement to the Skeena Queen in summer months beginning in 2022, as submitted in a formal service request to BC Ferries on Aug. 4, 2021.

1) There has been a long recognized safety issue on the Fulford-Ganges Road when the ferry lineup extends past the “pinch-point.’ Although there have been discussions, studies and proposals over the past three decades to overhaul the Fulford terminal and increase parking availability, little substantive has changed and the challenges are very obviously still there. The problem is much more severe during peak season with the increased traffic and the much higher proportion of tourists unfamiliar with the situation. Our position is essentially that if there is no apparent possibility of increasing the supply of parking for the ferry lineup, then the option would be to reduce the demand for this parking by offering more capacity on the ferries. Although vehicle lineups past the pinch point do occur all year round, they are much more common during the peak season, which we are concerned with here. Not only would our suggestion greatly increase safety but it would also substantially reduce the need for traffic control personnel on the Fulford-Ganges Road.

We recognize that there are other terminals in the system where ferry traffic lines up to some extent on the travelled part of the road but the vast bulk of the traffic tends to be ferry related while in Fulford there is a village with commercial establishments as well as homes with, unfortunately, no other vehicle access.

2) There is significant anecdotal evidence that the overloading of the Skeena Queen and the resulting two-hour wait for the next sailing has resulted in ferry users utilizing Route 6 instead, resulting in the well-known overloading of that route. Increasing the capacity on Route 4 would also help reduce the demand on Route 6 and thereby reduce the overloading and lineups on that route as well.

3) Hourly service on Route 4 during the peak season would be a major benefit to Route 1/4 thrufare travellers. Travellers in the Route 4/1 direction who miss the Route 1 connection at SWB only have to wait an hour for the next Tsawwassen-bound sailing while travellers on the Route 1/4 direction who miss the Skeena (it is often full when you drive off the Route 1 ship in peak season) have a two-hour wait. Hourly service on Route 4 during the busy time of day would mean a wait of only one hour.

4) Hourly service on Route 4 during the peak season could very possibly eliminate the need for the traditional Saturday extra sailing of the Skeena.

5) The above measures to resolve the pressures on the Fulford terminal and the Skeena Queen would put off the need to significantly modify and expand the BCF presence on the ground at that location. Eventually, terminal improvements will be needed, but the current safety and traffic concerns would be significantly alleviated.

6) We recognize that the Quinitsa is a designated relief ferry to replace other ferries while they undergo maintenance or repair, but since most of that work is undertaken during the non-peak season, utilizing it on Route 4 during the peak season would not be a major disruption. It is also very conducive to this requested service in that the extra dock at Fulford is available to park the Quinitsa when it is not in service.

We would ask that BC Ferries consider that a peak season service by the Quinitsa would have it making the first Fulford-Swartz Bay sailing at 8:50 a.m., then leaving SWB at 10 a.m. and continuing the pattern 10:50, 12:50, 2:50 from Fulford and 12, 2 and 4 from SWB except on Fridays when the schedule would be two hours later to accommodate the heavier Friday evening traffic to Salt Spring.

We recognize that the Quinitsa is theoretically scheduled for retirement later in this decade and would suggest that consideration be given to its eventual replacement by an Island Class ferry.

The Skeena Queen provides admirable service on Route 4 and we are sure that peak season backup by the Quinitsa would solve many of the current issues of safety and capacity on this route.

By GAIL SJUBERG

DRIFTWOOD EDITOR

Following the submission of an online petition demanding two-ship service on the Crofton-Vesuvius ferry route, a second proposal to supplement Fulford-Swartz Bay summertime service has been made public.

Last week Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee (SSIFAC) chair Harold Swierenga released the committee’s suggestion that the MV Quinitsa, currently serving the Vesuvius-Crofton route (Route 6), be used to add extra sailings during peak times of the day in summer months between Fulford and Swartz Bay (Route 4).

The idea was submitted to BC Ferries in the form of a service request last August. (See sidebar below.)

In the meantime, Salt Spring resident David Courtney came up with the idea of using the Quinitsa as a second vessel continuously on Route 6 when the larger MV Quinsam becomes the permanent vessel on that route this spring. More than 1,900 people have supported that idea on a change.org petition site. Courtney has sought support from residents and politicians on Vancouver Island who are impacted by ferry-related traffic congestion in Crofton, as well as Salt Spring Islanders.

Brian Anderson, BC Ferries’ vice president of strategy and community engagement, has responded to Courtney’s idea on page 12 of this paper by stating that “Substantial service increases, such as adding a second ship onto a route, require investments in terminal infrastructure along with an amendment to the [Coastal Ferry Services] Contract. Dedicating a second ship to this route at this time is not feasible because there is no spare to deploy.” The corporation says it is also committed to other improvements on Route 6, in addition to making the Quinsam the year-round vessel, which can take 19 more vehicles than the Quinitsa and is easy to load.

“The SSIFAC does not consider the question of whether the Quinitsa or any other ferry could be better utilized on Route 4 or Route 6 to be an either/or question,” said Swierenga. “The Quinsam will provide a significant upgrade in service to Route 6 this spring, leaving the issues of Route 4 to be dealt with. When the ferry lineup in Fulford extends past the ‘pinch point,’ there is a whole village with hundreds of residents depending on one lane for traffic in both directions. There is, unfortunately, no other access and no side streets into which traffic can diverge. The non-ferry traffic going into Fulford is much heavier than the non-ferry traffic going down Vesuvius Bay Road toward the ferry terminal.”

He also said an additional danger point exists on Fulford-Ganges Road where it curves just past the Beaver Point Road turnoff when people are driving into Fulford.

“The road down to the terminal in Vesuvius is much straighter and motorists have a much clearer view of the entire traffic situation,” he said, adding that “Neither situation is acceptable from a safety standpoint, but there is at least some improvement coming to Route 6 this spring.”

Swierenga said “both Vesuvius and Crofton terminals are scheduled for redevelopment by the summer of 2027 and with the future coming of the twin Island Class ferries, there is an evolving solution to the vehicle lineup and ferry capacity problems on this route.”

BC Ferries has not stated its position on the SSIFAC proposal.

Courtney has expressed frustration about the SSIFAC position and is urging people who support his idea to express that to Swierenga, Salt Spring CRD director Gary Holman and local trustee Peter Grove.

Following is the Salt Spring Island Ferry Advisory Committee rationale for using the MV Quinitsa on Route 4 as a supplement to the Skeena Queen in summer months beginning in 2022, as submitted in a formal service request to BC Ferries on Aug. 4, 2021.

1) There has been a long recognized safety issue on the Fulford-Ganges Road when the ferry lineup extends past the “pinch-point.’ Although there have been discussions, studies and proposals over the past three decades to overhaul the Fulford terminal and increase parking availability, little substantive has changed and the challenges are very obviously still there. The problem is much more severe during peak season with the increased traffic and the much higher proportion of tourists unfamiliar with the situation. Our position is essentially that if there is no apparent possibility of increasing the supply of parking for the ferry lineup, then the option would be to reduce the demand for this parking by offering more capacity on the ferries. Although vehicle lineups past the pinch point do occur all year round, they are much more common during the peak season, which we are concerned with here. Not only would our suggestion greatly increase safety but it would also substantially reduce the need for traffic control personnel on the Fulford-Ganges Road.

We recognize that there are other terminals in the system where ferry traffic lines up to some extent on the travelled part of the road but the vast bulk of the traffic tends to be ferry related while in Fulford there is a village with commercial establishments as well as homes with, unfortunately, no other vehicle access.

2) There is significant anecdotal evidence that the overloading of the Skeena Queen and the resulting two-hour wait for the next sailing has resulted in ferry users utilizing Route 6 instead, resulting in the well-known overloading of that route. Increasing the capacity on Route 4 would also help reduce the demand on Route 6 and thereby reduce the overloading and lineups on that route as well.

3) Hourly service on Route 4 during the peak season would be a major benefit to Route 1/4 thrufare travellers. Travellers in the Route 4/1 direction who miss the Route 1 connection at SWB only have to wait an hour for the next Tsawwassen-bound sailing while travellers on the Route 1/4 direction who miss the Skeena (it is often full when you drive off the Route 1 ship in peak season) have a two-hour wait. Hourly service on Route 4 during the busy time of day would mean a wait of only one hour.

4) Hourly service on Route 4 during the peak season could very possibly eliminate the need for the traditional Saturday extra sailing of the Skeena.

5) The above measures to resolve the pressures on the Fulford terminal and the Skeena Queen would put off the need to significantly modify and expand the BCF presence on the ground at that location. Eventually, terminal improvements will be needed, but the current safety and traffic concerns would be significantly alleviated.

6) We recognize that the Quinitsa is a designated relief ferry to replace other ferries while they undergo maintenance or repair, but since most of that work is undertaken during the non-peak season, utilizing it on Route 4 during the peak season would not be a major disruption. It is also very conducive to this requested service in that the extra dock at Fulford is available to park the Quinitsa when it is not in service.

We would ask that BC Ferries consider that a peak season service by the Quinitsa would have it making the first Fulford-Swartz Bay sailing at 8:50 a.m., then leaving SWB at 10 a.m. and continuing the pattern 10:50, 12:50, 2:50 from Fulford and 12, 2 and 4 from SWB except on Fridays when the schedule would be two hours later to accommodate the heavier Friday evening traffic to Salt Spring.

We recognize that the Quinitsa is theoretically scheduled for retirement later in this decade and would suggest that consideration be given to its eventual replacement by an Island Class ferry.

The Skeena Queen provides admirable service on Route 4 and we are sure that peak season backup by the Quinitsa would solve many of the current issues of safety and capacity on this route.

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