The lineups are going to start getting longer again at the Crofton and Vesuvius Bay Salt Spring Island terminals as the warmer weather arrives while spring progresses and turns into summer.
And, with pandemic restrictions eased and more people expected to be travelling, there’s no way to candycoat the length of the anticipated wait times on each side of the BC Ferries crossing – particularly during peak times.
In order to potentially generate some action to alleviate those constant back-ups, David Courtney of Salt Spring Island started a petition late last year calling for a two-vessel service running the MV Quinitsa and MV Quinsam simultaneously as the fix for Route Six. The petition immediately garnered 1,100 signatures in six days and has started accelerating again, Courtney said, with more than 2,000 and working toward 2,500.
A lot has been going on behind the scenes despite the off-season for the ferry run’s busiest time.
Courtney said the ferry petition was tabled in the BC Legislature by MLA Adam Olsen on behalf of petitioners on April 4.
”However, the petition is alive and well and can be viewed at Change.org,” Courtney added.
Notice was also received this week from the Chamber of Commerce presidents in Chemainus, Ladysmith and Duncan, he noted, about their concerns over the impact and lack of service on the route to provide goods and services to Salt Spring Island on behalf of their members. They’ve formally written letters to Rob Fleming of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“With no changes effectively on Route 6 we are bracing for another summer of traffic mayhem and the safety issues and inconvenience that presents to fellow British Columbians and guests to our province,” Courtney indicated. “The impact on the Mid-Island communities, specifically the town of Crofton, will again be disruptive and completely avoidable if BC Ferries would finally take action to address.”
A big question hanging over the situation in Crofton is when the Crofton terminal redevelopment plans will be started again after delays during COVID. Suggestions of as late as the end of 2027 will mean big problems in the interim to preventing traffic gridlock.
The current situation at the Crofton terminal, according to Courtney, is as follows:
* On April 13, the MV Quinsam was introduced on the route. It has a capacity of 63 vehicles (20’ automobile equivalent) which is 19 more than the preceding MV Quinitsa, but Courtney is quick to point out only two more from the last three summers when the Bowen Queen operated on the route with a 61-vehicle capacity.
* The Crofton terminal parking containment area is approximately 18 vehicles on the Wharf and 17 in the small parking area before the toll booth for a total of 35 parking spots. Courtney says this arrangement hasn’t changed for more than 50 years.
* With the MV Quinsam transporting 63 vehicles, Courtney indicated with a full sailing there’s 28 vehicles lined up on Chaplin Street from the Third Wave Coffee Company or 560 feet, allowing for 20 feet per vehicle, and you need to tack on a minimum of 180 feet to allow for openings for residents to access their Chaplin Street driveways and King Street. For a one-sailing wait that takes you back another 63 vehicles x 20 feet plus roadway allowances and driveways or 1,500 feet to the west and up Crofton Road by about 360 feet.
“Has it happened before?” Courtney questions. “Yes, in the summer of 2019 and 2021. Will it happen this summer? We are predicting an unequivocal ‘yes.’”
Courtney returns to the fix of using two ferries with on-the-hour service at both Crofton and Vesuvius to mitigate traffic gridlock on roadways and allow for unimpeded two-way traffic.
“It puts vehicles onto the ferries instead of making parking lots out of roadways,” he continued. “The side benefit is mitigating ferry traffic at Fulford Harbour by migrating traffic to Route 6. It’s a very cost effective solution to enhance public safety at all three ferry terminals this summer at minimum cost during peak demand travel times. It subsequently provides an interim solution until BC Ferries have replaced the long overdue ferry terminals at Crofton and Vesuvius Bay expected to be completed by March of 2027.”
BC Ferries’ Darin Guenette, manager of Ferry Advisory Committees Community Relations Strategy and Community Engagement, has graciously offered to hold an informal meeting with ferry patrons Tuesday, May 3 from 2:45-4 p.m. at Maeden Hall on Salt Spring Island.
“This is a golden opportunity to voice your opinion on the level of ferry service provided to our community of 11,700 residents,” noted Courtney. “The time of day is inconvenient for most, especially those who are trying to run a business venture. However, we do appreciate this gesture of BC Ferries engaging the Salt Spring community during their current internal crisis.”
A neighbourhood drop-in style session is being coordinated. The idea is a handful of BC Ferries reps will be in the room with some information boards with stats and plans for all three Salt Spring Island routes as well as general information. Anyone who wishes to learn and have discussions is welcome. It won’t be a town hall format, but rather a small group, around-the-boards type session.
A meeting with the 10-member appointed Salt Spring Ferry Advisory Committee will follow at 4:30 p.m.