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Louis Hornung

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Sunshine Coast Ferry Fix

The Sunshine Coast Marine Highway Needs Some Improvement!

The Lower Sunshine Coast is a 40 minute ferry ride that is 8.3 nautical miles from Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver, on a peninsula of mainland BC that is not accessible by any road, and has limited access by air. BC Ferries operates the marine highway (ferry service) that allows tourists and local residents to travel back and forth. BC Ferries offers 8 returns trips per day.

The Upper Sunshine Coast is a 50 minute ferry ride that is 80.5 km, or about 75 minutes by road, and 9.99 nautical miles north-west of the Langdale Ferry Terminal, on another peninsula of mainland BC, but even less accessible by land than the Lower Sunshine Coast. BC Ferries operates the marine highway between the Upper and Lower Sunshine Coast, and also between the Upper Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island. Upper Sunshine Coast residents might typically go to Vancouver Island, before making a journey to Vancouver, as most medical and shopping is available with just one ferry sailing. BC Ferries offers 8 returns trips per day.

Little River, Comox on Vancouver Island, is a 90 minute ferry ride that is 16.7 nautical miles from the Westview Ferry Terminal, Powell River. Island residents would also have the option to drive 118 km, or about 1.5 hours to reach the Nanaimo, Departure Bay Ferry Terminal, where a 100 minute ferry ride that is 32.3 nautical miles from the Island terminal would deliver them to Horseshoe Bay, West Vancouver. BC Ferries offers 4 returns trips per day.

Residents of the Lower Sunshine Coast often travel up and over, if they are enroute to the northern part of Vancouver Island, while tourists will often choose the scenic Sunshine Coast route to Vancouver Island, and return by driving back down the Island.

With more than 70,000 people living on the Sunshine Coast of BC, why is our highway such a struggle? Perfect travel would be getting to the terminal within 20 minutes of departure, and departing the larger vessel within 12 minutes of docking, which would then take 248 minutes, or 4 hours and 8 minutes, if you made the perfect second connection to reach the largest incorporated area of the Upper Sunshine Coast. Requiring a reservation adds more time and cost to this journey. Reality is, that you can almost never arrive within 20 minutes of departure, and get on the boat, except perhaps on final sailings. The other failure, is that sailings are not timed in either direction, so you cannot make a reasonable connection to travel up or down the Sunshine Coast, nor over to the Island from the Upper Sunshine Coast.

How do we fix this situation?

  1. Build a bridge
  2. Add ferries
  3. Add sailings
  4. Change the schedule

Let’s take a look at these options.

Build a bridge
This addresses access to and from the Lower Sunshine Coast, at a cost of over a $billion, and will affect BC Ferries operation, as this run is one of the few that adds a significant value to that operation. No one on the Sunshine Coast, that doesn’t work for BC Ferries, would care if the operation suffered losses after the greedy and pitiful way they have treated us. That does not take away the fact that they have provided very needed care while offering their service, because that is marine care for other mariners. This offers no benefit for the Upper Sunshine Coast, nor the Island triangle journey. If the journey takes 1.5 hours, that may not be different than the time spent to wait on the Horseshoe Bay side and take the 40 minute journey to Langdale, except that it could be completed at any time of day.

Add ferries
If we had two smaller ships on the Lower Sunshine Coast, as BC Ferries have done when our normal ship broke down, we had no sailing waits, as they operated hourly, and our service was great! If you wanted to exercise a reservation you still could, so the Company would still have that income, but it wouldn’t be necessary for every sailing by a resident. This is technically adding sailings, but it’s providing the highway replacement service that is due to residents of the Lower Sunshine Coast, as well as access to the Upper Sunshine Coast. This would remedy the call for the resident cards that my have existed at one point, or preferred loading, as the maximum wait would be an hour.

Add sailings
This goes hand in hand with adding a ferry, but is also a replacement for needing another ferry. As previously shown, this is part of adequate service for the Lower Sunshine Coast. The connection from the Lower Sunshine Coast to the Upper Sunshine Coast doesn’t seem to need additional sailings, from any conversations I have had. However, the marine highway link from the Upper Sunshine Coast to the Island is seriously lacking! It seems to be geared for Island to Powell River travel, when that is the least likely usage that is exercised. Upper Sunshine Coast residents are more likely to travel to the Island for shopping or medical services, than vice versa. So, to have the early sailing leave the Upper Sunshine Coast, and the late last sailing finish on the Upper Sunshine Coast, would seem to offer the best service of replacing that marine highway.

Change the schedule
Adding a ferry to the Lower Sunshine Coast would change the schedule, so this goes hand in hand with that cure. The most effective use of this change would be to allow a vehicle to drive twice a day from Langdale to Earl’s Cove, and be relatively close to catching the next sailing, in order to travel to the Upper Sunshine Coast. The next schedule change would be to have the same sailing, twice a day, connect to travel from Westview, Powell River, to the ferry that would allow travel to Little River, Comox. There should be two sailings that would allow the opposite travel to occur as well. One connection is aimed for morning travel to leave either area, and the other to return at night. Presently, Upper Sunshine Coast residents seem to get stranded on the Island if they go over for medical, or entertainment, as they can’t return past 7:30. Perhaps the first ship should leave from Westview, and the last ship end there. This route is a marine highway!

While BC Ferries complains about staffing issues, and cancels sailings due to that, every other business that is not operated by government, even though they were removed from the government books, has the same issue, and they pay, or due whatever they have to, in order to stay operative.

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