Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA, Nicholas Simons, is weighing in on BC Ferries’ decision to quash a controversial summer trial.

Among other things, BC Ferries’ proposed that vehicle reservations on Route 3 connecting Horseshoe Bay and Langdale be increased to 95 percent during the peak summer season.

“I think the response was clear to BC Ferries that people were not inclined to want to have the pilot take place, at this point with the description that they had,” told Vista Radio. “I think they made the only decision that they could.”

Simons said there were issues with the proposed reservation system.

“People saw that they would have trouble with ferry reservations, that they would have trouble just deciding to go to the city if they wanted to and, so, until we get a second boat, which is what we all realize is what we need, we have to figure out how we are going to get through the seasons of where people can travel (and) when they travel… a lot of it is uncertainty right now.”

Simons added that more discussions should have been happening, to give a clearer understanding “of what Sunshine Coast residents wanted to see.”

“There was also the concern about the upper Sunshine Coast and the Powell River area, and the impacts of the trial on people travelling on two ferries to Vancouver from the upper Sunshine Coast, so yeah, there were issues that caused concern, for sure,” he said.

According to a release from BC Ferries, the #Route3Trial, BC Ferries would have had:

  • increased reservation space: from 40-50 percent on average to 95 percent of the vessel,
  • provided free reservations on all Saver and Prepaid fares,
  • held guaranteed space for Medical Assured Loading (MAL),
  • make Travel Assistance Program (TAP) travel “more certain,” and
  • Langdale would have become a fare-paid terminal for vehicle traffic. 

The trial was tentatively set to launch on May 26th with prepaid bookings with free reservations for travel between June 21st through Oct. 13th. 

The concept didn’t sit well with many.

Glenda Sewards started an online petition to BC Ferries and Sunshine Coast Regional District, which garnered over 8,700 signatures.

She said the changes would “cause unnecessary stress, undue hardship and negatively affect thousands of Sunshine Coast residents’ quality of life, without ‘Community’ engagement.”  

“By forcing residents to make reservations both ways and implementing a toll booth on the Langdale side, traffic will back up the Bypass and into Gibsons,” the change.org petition read.

“Commuters to and from Vancouver often do not know exactly when they will be leaving the office due to work demands.  These rules of having to have reservations… means that many residents of the Sunshine Coast will not be able to make it home to their families on the Sunshine Coast.  And how will this work for commercial vehicles?” it continued. 

“And only five percent availability for medical appointments and last-minute arrivals? How will this work for family emergencies and last-minute medical appointments?”

BC Ferries says the intent was “to test whether concepts of improved customer service in successful use elsewhere in the BC Ferries system would work on the Langdale route. After the trial, the results would be reviewed with the community and next steps determined.”

According to BC Ferries, in a series of consultations with residents of the Sunshine Coast last fall, users of the Langdale ferry route voiced concerns about ferry travel stress and anxiety, especially in the peak season. 

“Uncertainty in travel times, long waits at congested terminals, and lack of available reservations were also noted as concerns. Participants wanted solutions that would help them plan ahead and make their travel easier,” it said in a release.

On the decision to cancel the trial, BC Ferries president and CEO, Mark Collins said, it “has become a divisive issue in the community, which certainly was not the intent.”

“As a result, we will forego the trial and operate the route in the usual manner this summer. It is evident that the issues are complex and more community conversation is needed before change can be considered. We extend our thanks to the many community leaders and elected representatives for their assistance in considering this proposal.”

Simons said on Facebook, “Thanks to Ferry Advisory Committee Chair Diana Mumford, to residents and businesses who spoke out, to local governments, and to Kim and Rob at my offices who ensured that voices of the Lower and Upper Sunshine Coast were heard. There will be no pilot.”