BC Ferries starts consultations on new schedule for Gulf Islands service

BC Ferries is seeking input from residents of the Southern Gulf Islands as it prepares to introduce a larger ferry to the routes in 2022.

Brian Anderson, vice-president of strategy and community engagement with BC Ferries, says the Southern Gulf Island routes are some of the most complex — and crucial — of the province’s ferry routes.

“In the Gulf Islands, people are using this service for daily commuting … regular shopping, medical appointments, you know, the occasional day-trip for supplies. Lots of commercial deliveries. We’ve got movement of inter-island goods and services. Health care, education, you name it,” Anderson said.

“It’s really a critical lifeline in some of these communities.”

The routes of the Southern Gulf Islands serve five different islands —  Saturna, Pender, Mayne, Galiano and Salt Spring — and connect them to two major ports, Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen on B.C.’s mainland. 

The new ferry would almost double capacity, holding up to 138 cars versus 58 cars, and 600 passengers — including crew — compared to 400.

Anderson said BC Ferries is looking at travel times between the islands and the two major ports as well as frequency, and departure times. 

He said the last consultation on ferry schedules took place in 2015, but the islands have evolved since then.

“We are checking in to make sure what has remained the same and where the travel patterns or the needs have changed,” he said. 

“We rely on the community voice to really get it right.”

A survey can be completed online between now and March 16. A second consultation phase will take place between June and July 2021 in response to different schedule options informed by the survey results. 

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