Tag Archives: BC Ferries

BC Ferries between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay

No parking in Nanaimo?

At the last Nanaimo Council meeting on Monday, April 20th, two developers requested reduced parking. What is happening to the parking in Nanaimo? Here is an overview.

The first development was a three-storey, 45-room hotel on 440 Selby Street downtown. The second was a 55-unit rental apartment at 6330 McRobb Avenue in North Nanaimo.

45 room hotel at 440 Selby St.
45 room hotel at 440 Selby St.

The proposed hotel at 440 Selby Street is to include meeting rooms, a spa/salon, a 36-seat restaurant, plus 45 hotel rooms. Council approved 25 parking spaces; not the required 45 underneath the building, nor the 35 stalls recommended by the City.

The on-site parking requirements for a hotel is 1 parking space per hotel room, or 45 spaces. According to Bylaw 7013, it states that if the development can’t provide the parking then there is a required fee of $3,000 per parking stall.

Councillor Fuller used his favourite word to describe the situation: “bizzare”. Fuller was the only council member to vote against the motion. Fuller said he was very concerned with the growing congestion and lack of parking in the area.

55 rental unit 6330 McRobb Ae
55 rental unit 6330 McRobb Ave

The proposed 55-unit rental apartment at 6330 McRobb Avenue is causing great concern for the neighbours. Two strata council representatives from different complexes gave presentations outlining their issues with granting reduced parking for the development.

The residents’ concern was that there will be no required underground parking. The number of parking stalls required for the proposed apartment is 83 parking stalls and this is to be reduced to 66 stalls. (Ratio: 1.2)

The delegations said that the side roads in the area are too narrow for the volume of traffic (see the red lines in the diagram above).  Strata representatives gave examples of people working in the area who fill up the streets and park in the empty lots adjacent to the Texada.

The developer said “we won’t ghettoize the neighbourhood”, referring to the fact that over half the units will be micro or one bedroom units. Also, he gave the example that his other 6 rental complexes in Nanaimo under utilize the parking stalls available.

Mayor McKay gave two examples of other developments that were approved with reduced parking on site, 775 Terminal Avenue and 1820 Summerhill Place.

Summerhill Place fronting on Townsite Road near Bowen Road with 103 units was given approval for 109 parking stalls. (Ratio: 1.06)

Terminal Ave has 121 units and 145 parking stalls. (Ratio: 1.2)

Multi-Plex Apartment 6524 Portsmouth
Multi-Plex Apartment 6524 Portsmouth

In contrast,  there is a proposal to remove a single family dwelling at 6524 Portsmouth and build in its place an 8-unit residential development which will have 12 parking stalls.  (Ratio: 1.5)

Nob Hill
Recently the City has restricted the street parking at Nob Hill to two hours for non-residents. Apparently, visitors and commuters from other parts of town frequently parked in the residential streets for long periods of time.

Hospital Area
People living in the the Hospital Area have raised concerns of a lack of street parking. How does the hospital plan to solve its parking issues? Will they build another parkade?

Transit needs to work with the major employers in these nodes and coordinate buses so that they can meet the needs of commuters. Many of the bus routes are too long, too infrequent and the times do not match peoples’ work schedules.

One visitor to Nanaimo took to twitter to complain about the lack of transit service. If it takes an hour and 40 minutes to get to the Departure Bay ferry by transit and 10 minutes by car people are not going to get out of their cars.  Providing parking is expensive, heats up cities with lack of green spaces, and increases traffic congestion.

The developer of the Summerhill Place said to council during his presentation that he really believes that people are using vehicles less in urban centers.

At another council meeting a resident living in Harewood gave a presentation to council with his concerns about traffic congestion.  In his neighbourhood parking survey he counted an average of 5 vehicles per single family dwelling. Most of these homes have secondary units.

Do people live, work and play in their Nanaimo neighbourhoods? Are people turning to transit and cycling? Or are they constantly on the road driving from one strip mall to the next?

Bike to work week Nanaimo is coming up from May 25 – 31.

Could viral marketing challenge BC Ferries?

Recently, the Los Angeles Times published an article about the growing importance of ‘online influencers’ —ordinary people whose actions are followed by thousands of supporters on social media. These influencers have a “trusted voice” that speaks to their own personal audience.

Marketing firms like Instabrand are now including influencers as an essential part of their advertising campaigns.

In 2007, the emerging world of social media was spoofed by a video featuring a bride-to-be having a meltdown and cutting off her hair in a hotel room just an hour before her wedding. The idea of the video “Bride Has Massive Hair Wig Out” was to get attention for a new hair product.

Did we just witness a similar video with “Woman Loses Mind Learning BC Ferries are Full”? The video shows a woman screaming hysterically when she (apparently) is told that it’s too late to board the ferry at Tsawassen. According to one news report she is heard yelling, “You have no idea what it means to people” as she walks out of the ferry terminal.

Vancouver Islanders have witnessed BC Ferries services decline while the fares steadily increase.

Could this video have been the brainchild of some marketing company trying to gauge how fed up people are over BC Ferries? Maybe this disgruntled passenger might want to take a “reliable, dependable fast, passenger-only ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver” such as the proposed Island Ferries.

Councillor Bestwick mentioned at the last council meeting that getting Island Ferries up and running is a number one priority for the City of Nanaimo.

Despite all the problems with BC Ferries, it’s still a lot safer than taking a ferry in Greece.

BC Ferries needs a Queue System not Signs

At the last council meeting BC Ferries put forward a motion to have three LED signs installed at the Departure Bay terminal for a cost of approximately $300,000. BC Ferries also plans to install similar signs at the Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal. That would be a total cost of at least $600,000. The purpose of these signs would be to generate revenue from ads and to tell drivers to shut off their engines, etc.

Unhappy neighbours

The residents in the area gave presentations to council outlining several concerns regarding the proposed installation of these LED signs.  The signs are 9 meters tall and 20 square meters in area. There would be significant light pollution for the neighbours.

BC Ferries only held public open houses on weekdays before and directly after Labour Day.  The neighbouring residents presented a petition against the proposed signs to which Councillor Greves commented, “I don’t think much of petitions, there is even someone who signed this from Ontario.”

In the end, all the councillors opposed the three signs and their size except for Councillor Anderson who stepped out when it came time to vote.

Unsatisfied customers

In July about 100 vehicles meant to be loaded onto the 3:10 p.m. sailing from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay were held back while terminal staff gave the green light to vehicles that had arrived later. Some passengers had to wait over five hours. Although BC Ferries issued a refund for the loading error, many passengers were still unhappy. What is the average wait time for people in a ferry line up in the busy summer months?

After this experience, what are the chances these tourists will want to return?

Queue System

At the same council meeting Councillor Bestwick asked the BC Ferries representative: “How many walk-ons are there?  How many people are first time ferry users?”  The BC Ferries rep did not have these stats available. Do they know?

Ferry rates have increased as much as 75% and there has been a decrease in service routes. BC Ferries should be restoring service levels.

BC Ferries needs a queue system to manage lineups, rather than the current reservation system which creates a ‘have’ and ‘have not’ line up. It’s not effective and it’s costly to operate.

In other countries they are using queue systems that are effective and do not require people to line up. BC Ferries needs to think outside the box. Ferry line ups can be eliminated.

What if there were self-serve kiosks set up around Nanaimo or Parksville and tourists could print their own transportation tickets, baggage tags, and then, just like an online order, a person could stay informed through a mobile app when to arrive at the ferry? Just think what an economic boon it would be for Nanaimo. Instead of people waiting in a car for five hours, people could be spending more time in town shopping or eating at restaurants.

BC Ferries could also implement a system where people could order their food in advance without lining up at the cafeteria. People could present a receipt and their food order would be ready.

We live in a modern world; it’s time for some creative thinking.

BC Ferries: profits and problems

BC Ferries is an independent company with a contract to provide ‘ferry services’ for the BC government. It should actually be called ‘Corrigan’s Company’ or something that doesn’t make it sound like it’s a government department.

This spring, Transportation Minister Todd Stone approved $19 million in cuts to BC Ferry coastal routes. Over 3,000 sailings were cancelled. At the same time, BC Ferries introduced a 4.2% increase in fares for the major routes, a 2% increase on Northern routes and reduced the passenger fare discount for BC seniors travelling Mondays to Thursdays from 100% to 50%.

How did these cuts to service and increased fares play out?

Record Profits

In August, BC Ferries announced that net earnings from April to June 2014 were $13.9-million, compared with $4.3-million in the first quarter of the previous year.

These profits have come at a cost.  Coastal communities are being killed off one by one and those in government that are paid to listen are deaf as a post.

Discovery Coast Passage Route

Discovery Coast Circle Tour - affected by BC Ferries cuts
Discovery Coast Circle Tour – affected by BC Ferries cuts

On April 28, 2014, BC Ferries discontinued the Discovery Coast Passage Route with direct service from Port Hardy to Bella Coola.

They have taken out the regular sized ferry, the Queen of Chilliwack, and replaced it with the smallest open-deck car ferry “Nimpkish” which can only take 16 vehicles and up to 95 passengers.

Tourists now ride the open waves for 10 hours, arriving in the dark; hungry and stiff because there is no food only a vending machine and nowhere to sit.

If BC Ferries ran the Queen of Chilliwack it would take more passengers (389) and it has amenities. Tourists can sit on a seat or eat in the cafeteria. It has coin-operated showers, recliner seats, an elevator, and washrooms for people with disabilities. The Nimpkish has no amenities. None.

The Discovery Coast Passage route has been used by European tourists, who took the ferry from Port Hardy to Bella Coola and drove through the Chilcotin to Williams Lake and back down to Vancouver for a circle tour.

According to legislative reporter Tom Fletcher (who normally toes the government line) it was a bleak summer for tourism in the region as a result of the ferry changes. A bus tour of Canadian seniors heading west from Williams Lake was cancelled after 14 years. One tourism operator is considering closing down and other Cariboo-Chilcotin operators lost up to 90% of their business. This has a cumulative effect and soon there will be no operators that can survive.

With the tiny 16-vehicle Nimpkish now on the route, even if every sailing was filled to maximum capacity only 720 vehicles can be carried. That means the traffic level can only reach about one-third of the 10-year average. Two-thirds of the traffic that would have used the ferry in a typical year will now be turned away, unable to visit the region at all.

What does this mean for tourism on Vancouver Island?

Resource Extraction over Tourism

Why would the BC government want to kill coastal tourism and particularly in the area of Cariboo-Chilcotin? Would it be because there are plans for the world’s largest open pit mine that will take up 90% of the area?

BC Ferries increases fares: a slow death for coastal communities

BC Ferries increases fares again. What does this mean for coastal communities? Why is the BC Ferries ‘system’ not working? Here is the latest press release from the Ferry Advisory Committee :

“Ferry fares continue their relentless climb into regions of unaffordability, accompanied by repetitive rhetoric from the provincial government that is disconnected from acceptance, or even understanding, of the needs of BC’s coastal region.

With the fare increases taking effect on April 1 and fuel surcharges imposed in January, most passenger fares are up 8.4 percent and vehicle fares are up 7.4 percent over last year, yet another round of fare hikes far above inflation. And seniors now have to pay for travel from Monday to Thursday.

On those northern routes that will continue to operate, fares are up only 1.5 percent, but the fare break is too little, too late. On the northern route due for outright elimination, Route 40 serving the central coast, fares increased 60 percent and traffic dropped 43 percent in a straight line since 2007, under operating conditions that ran counter to local residents’ suggestions to improve the route’s efficiency. Now it’s considered unprofitable, and treated as unsalvageable, regardless of the damage that will result to local communities and BC’s tourism industry.

Traffic and fares on all the minor routes are following the same pattern, and the response is to cut service rather than to address the root problem – unaffordable fares.

Working in the engine room of the old Chilliwack
Working in the engine room of the old Chilliwack – keeping the coastal ships running smooth was hard work back in the day. Also there weren’t over 600 managers and million dollar executives.

Vehicle traffic this year will be the lowest in 15 years, while passenger traffic will be the lowest in 23 years. This comes at a time when provincial GDP and populations are both increasing. While this has a direct bearing on BC Ferries’ revenue, it’s also a surrogate for the creeping harm that undermines coastal regions that depend on the ferries as a lifeline.

Until the provincial government addresses the real problem – adequate funding to support realistic fares – all the band-aid fixes in the world will only delay the ultimate day of reckoning. While the provincial government refers to keeping BC Ferries sustainable – a red herring – they ignore the sustainability of the ferry-dependent coastal communities, as that real economic sustainability becomes more in danger every year.

User-pay ideology has been mindlessly imposed on the ferry system, up to and beyond the tipping point where it is now crippling BC’s coastal region and undermining BC’s tourism reputation internationally.

The provincial and federal governments contributed roughly $180 million last year to BC Ferries’ operations. Ferry users contributed more than $500 million. At this key moment in BC Ferries’ history, when so many ships and terminals need replacement, more money will be needed. There is no cheap solution nor infinite capacity of customers to absorb ever-higher fares.

 We call on the Province to back away from more user pay and consider these realities:

  • BC’s coastal region and the ferry system are intertwined and depend on each other for survival.
  • It costs money to operate and maintain assets of one of the largest ferry systems in the world.
  • All of BC benefits from affordable ferry service. Policies that substantially change the service need to be supported by some analysis of costs, benefits and economic and social impacts.”

Cutting BC Ferry Routes: Gabriola vs. Tsawwassen

A Coastal Ferries Community Engagement meeting will be held Tuesday December 10, 2013 from 5pm to 8pm at Gabriola Community Hall, 2200 South Rd, Gabriola Island regarding cutting BC ferry routes.

How can BC Ferries Services Inc. save money? They want to save $800,000 by April 2016 on the Gabriola ferry route.

What is the solution? Cut the ferry management? Cut the major routes? The Ferry Advisory Committee has the following suggestion:

The three major routes (from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island) include the Twsawwassen-Duke Point run which loses the most money. These major routes are not facing huge cuts like the 22 smaller routes.

Tsawwassen-Duke Point route
The Tsawwassen-Duke Point route has been losing money for at least ten years. In each of the last five years it has lost somewhere between $24 million to $30 million a year.

The route has an average capacity utilization of 48%. It could stand to lose one of its four shifts on weekdays for ten months a year and still have room for all its traffic. A combination of consultation and a revised reservation system could produce a schedule to accommodate the freight and commercial carriers who use the route heavily. These cuts to Tsawwassen-Duke Point alone would save $9.6 million.

Translink reduced schedule:
Starting December 16, 2013 the new Translink schedule has a reduced service to and from the Tsawwassen terminal on weekdays.  Instead of running every hour, buses will only run alternate hours to meet ferries to and from Victoria.  Weekend services will continue to run hourly.

Gabriola Ferry Terminal
Minister Todd Stone said in the cutback announcement on November 18, 2013 that over the next two years, the ministry would be looking at making $4.9 million in service reductions for the major routes, specifically mentioning the Duke Point and Departure Bay.   Could the Gabriola – Nanaimo Harbour terminal be closed and the Gabriola route be moved to Duke Point or Departure Bay?

GERTIE on the water?
Gabriola already has its own bus, Gabriola’s Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express (GERTIE). What would it take to put GERTIE on the water?  Why should the island economy be pushed into permanent decline because of the lack of  ferry service?