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BC Ferries Coast engagement update

BC Ferries Coast engagement update

Resident priority access to ferry sailings is not being considered in BC Ferries’ (BCF) Sunshine Coast engagement process. During public online presentations on Nov. 25 and 30, Carrie McIntosh, engagement manager at BCF, said the corporation will not be discussing solutions around that subject until the community agrees on “what such a program should look like.” Earlier in the process, the engagement working group contrasted the benefits of resident priority with potential impacts on tourism and other “economically-critical” travel. No clear workable solutions were
Exclusion of discussions on resident priority frustrated some members who attended the Nov. 25 online sessions. Comments from the 27 public participants included statements of “this is our highway,” that emergency travel for residents “should trump” tourist travel, and a call for BCF to “stop advertising to tourists.” The Nov. 30 session had six public attendees, and significantly fewer comments came forward.
The online events were part of an engagement exercise BCF launched in August. It started with an online survey and the appointment of the 19-person working group comprised of local representatives. Since that time, that group met to discuss and propose “near-term” solutions to challenges Coast residents face with ferry services. Near-term solutions were defined as items that address real travel needs that could be implemented by BCF in a timely manner, without major capital investments.
The resulting discussion points were organized into areas relating to travel certainty, improving medical travel, communications and managing demand. A variety of potential solutions are proposed. These include adjustments to the reservation system, making mid-day sailings more appealing for travellers to offset peak morning and evening sailing demands, and adjusting terminal webcams to provide a better view of current traffic situations when checking this on BCF’s website.
Another idea that BCF will not be considering through this engagement is hourly sailings on Route 3 between Langdale and Horseshoe Bay. McIntosh said this adjustment would require changes to BCF’s Coastal Ferries Contract with the province and a second ship for the route. This is not being planned for as major capital investments are on hold following financial losses suffered by the corporation earlier in 2020 due to COVID-19.
BCF is continuing to experience revenue downturns during COVID-19’s second wave. McIntosh noted that customer volumes on Route 3 during the third weekend in November were down over 50 percent compared to last year.
McIntosh reported that over 1,500 individuals have provided input through an online comment opportunity. Online comments can be submitted at until Dec. 9.
Engagement process recommendations are slated to be released in mid-December.
Connie Jordison

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