After a summer of public consultations, BC Ferries has decided to adjust some of its schedules for the Sunshine Coast and Bowen Island to accommodate early commuters and people leaving late at night.
The affected routes include Horseshoe Bay-Langdale and Horseshoe Bay-Bowen Island, with some adjustments to Earls Cove-Saltery Bay as a result.
“The frustration has been, you know, the ship doesn’t sail on time, I can’t get on the sailing of my choice. And these measures are intended to address that,” said Mark Collins, BC Ferries president and CEO.
Expanded sailing times
The new schedules, which go into effect Jan. 2, 2018, will feature an earlier 6:20 a.m. sailing year-round from Langdale to Horseshoe Bay, and a 5:30 p.m. year-round sailing from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale.
A late last sailing from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale will depart at 10:55 p.m. during the off peak season, and 11:20 p.m. during the shoulder and peak seasons.
This route will also see increased capacity during the shoulder season, the travel period between peak and off peak seasons, before and after summer, thanks to an extra ship providing 25 round trips.
On the Bowen Island to Horseshoe Bay route, a new sailing will depart at 7:30 a.m., while sailings back to Bowen Island will be available at 3:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m. during the off-peak season, and 4:50 p.m. and 5:55 p.m. during the peak season.
To allow people to attend events in the city, the last sailing to Bowen Island will depart at 10 p.m. in the off-peak season, and 10:20 p.m. in the peak season.
Leaving on time
In addition, BC Ferries says to improve on-time departures it will extend the crossing times on those routes by two minutes, as well as extend docking times to better handle loading and unloading passengers.
“When the ship is running late, you start to have cascading overloads and frustrations. We get the ship back on time and it’s operating predictably at the times people want them. The overload situation should improve, and the additional sailings will make sure that the overloads don’t build up,” said Collins.
“I think the point has got across that the fact that we’re having two ferry waits right now in a lot of cases is causing concern, and they’re doing something about it,” said Garry Nohr, chair of the Sunshine Coast Regional District. “I think it’s a great first move and it’s long in coming.”
Gibsons Mayor Wayne Rowe gives full marks to BC Ferries for addressing the community’s concerns over delayed departures.
“That’s certainly something that’s been frustrating for tourists and residents alike, so that consistency I think will be important if the schedules can be stuck to, so at least people can plan their day accordingly,” said Rowe.
Rowe said residents would like to see an hourly service down the road, but understands there are financial and infrastructure constraints for BC Ferries.
Collins says they’re looking at an hourly service in the long term, but, in order to get there, they need to rebuild Horseshoe Bay and build some purpose-designed ships.
He says these schedule changes are interim measures until the Langdale and Horseshoe Bay terminals are renovated in the next five years, with two new vessels to be added to the fleet.