A petition started by Salt Spring Island resident David Courtney and the patrons of BC Ferries Route 6 from Vesuvius Bay to Crofton is gathering momentum faster than it takes to make the crossing.
The issue is the inability of the ferry on the route to handle the capacity. The MV Quinitsa is currently servicing the route but that will switch to the MV Quinsam in the spring of 2022.
An alternative to alleviate the backlog being proposed is for BC Ferries to run a two-vessel service on the route, leaving each location on the hour.
A petition to BC Ferries CEO Mark Collins and management team has garnered more than 1,100 signatures in less than a week.
The petitions reads: “We the residents of Salt Spring Island, the town of Crofton, Vancouver Island, in particular the Municipality of North Cowichan, Cowichan Valley Regional District and the Regional District of Nanaimo petition the CEO and management team of BC Ferries to mitigate the traffic congestion at Vesuvius Bay, Crofton and Fulford Harbour in an effort to restore our local communities free of ferry traffic gridlock.
“The plausible and timely Fix for Route Six is to introduce a two-ferry service between Vesuvius Bay and Crofton in the spring of 2022, similar to what is happening to Route 19 Nanaimo-Gabriola Island this coming spring, with the potential side effect of easing traffic gridlock at Fulford Harbour and sailing waits at all three ferry terminals. With the bounce back in ferry traffic from June of 2021, Route 6 is up 19 per cent from the same period in 2019. The situation has become intolerable for most patrons. Join us this holiday season in politely petitioning the management team of BC Ferries to commission a two-ferry service for the spring of 2022.”
“We really need to get the residents of Crofton and area to get involved to hit one out of the park,” noted Courtney. “My wish is for 1,500 petitions by January 1st, 2022. It’s an ambitious task but by getting the info out to the residents, they seem to be responding and expressing their concerns in a civil manner. I’m impressed with their reasons and rationale for supporting the petition. Patrons are simply fed up with the current service.”
Long lineups to get onto the ferry have been an ongoing concern for residents on both sides before the pandemic that’s continued despite it.
“We really need the people on Chaplin Street in Crofton to come forward,” added Courtney.
“Our neighbours in Crofton are just learning of the petition and are starting to get engaged. It’s plainly obvious to all that Route 6 is underserved. This is the perfect moment in time to introduce a two-ferry service using the MV Quinsam and Quinitsa for the spring of 2022 in order to mitigate traffic gridlock and sailing waits at Crofton, Vesuvius Bay and Fulford Harbour terminals.”
He also sees it as the most cost-effective manner for BC Ferries to handle the situation by keeping the two older ferries working simultaneously on the route.
“I hope they come to terms with it,” said Courtney. “It’s the cheapest fix.”
He added data compares 2019 to 2021 leaving the pandemic out of the equation. And BC Ferries’ own data shows ridership is up close to 19 per cent from July to October this year compared to the same period in 2019.
“The Quinsam’s 63 vehicle capacity simply won’t cut it in 2022,” noted Courtney. “It’s coming down from Gabriola which will have two new Eco Island class ferries commissioned in March 2022 at $50 million per vessel. That’s why combining the Quinitsa is the answer with its 44 vehicle capacity. With an hourly service at both ends, it clears the traffic off the roads and onto the ferries. On Salt Spring, it’s felt that some ferry patrons will shift away from Fulford Harbour mitigating the traffic snarls and mayhem there.”
The Bowen Queen, servicing the route during the busier summer months with a capacity of 63 vehicles, experienced overloads on a regular basis.
There was a definite uptick in ridership in June when residents began to travel again following the lifting of some COVID restrictions and tourists returned. The current building boom has also kept all suppliers and trades people busy going back and forth.
Even in the so-called doldrums of November and December, Courtney cited it’s unreasonable that either the Quinitsa or Quinsam’s capacities can handle the demand. BC Ferries maintains the status quo can serve capacity adequately until 2035.
“Myself and others have been on a campaign to resolve the traffic congestion at the Crofton ferry terminal and an improved terminal facility since June 2021,” he indicated. “We want to give the residents of Crofton, Vesuvius Bay and Fulford Harbour their communities back instead of being used by BC Ferries as parking lots on their roadways.”