Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) chair Kim Barton-Bridges was scratching her head last August in Victoria when she heard at a meeting that BC Ferries was launching another survey.
“I was surprised because I was involved in one that began in the fall of 2019,” said Barton-Bridges. “A report was released in the spring of 2020.”
The 2020 report stated: “What we have heard from the public is that while the current ferry service works well for some, there is lots of room for improvement for those who most depend on it and in ferry dependent communities. Our vision is that travel by coastal ferries is seamless, equitable and compatible with the needs of coastal communities.”
“What I expressed in August was, what the heck? Why are we doing this now?” said Barton-Bridges.
BC Ferries launched Charting the Course: A Vision for Coastal Ferries on November 8; the survey asks for public feedback on topics such as sustainability, convenience and integration with land transportation.
Barton-Bridges has been chair of the Northern Sunshine Coast FAC since 2014, and said that the committee spent a long time doing this [consulting, surveys et cetera] already, and believes the same concerns remain looming. Now BC Ferries is looking ahead to 2050.
“We don’t have the ferries meeting our needs now, so I’m frustrated,” said Barton-Bridges. “I feel like the government is trying to look like they are doing something, when we need to get through this period right now.”
BC government funding is provided to BC Ferries through the contract that defines routes and minimum service levels. The province announced that it will be fining the company for sailings missed due to crew shortages, which will take effect on April 1, 2024.
Barton-Bridges believes that there hasn’t been enough investment in infrastructure or new sailing vessels, and with a growing population, more problems will arise and coastal communities are the ones that suffer. She said she has witnessed improvements on the connection for the Saltery Bay to Earls Cove route.
“I will give credit where credit is due,” she added. “Finally they [BC Ferries] have recently been holding the ship at Earls Cove, and that’s a positive.”
The survey runs until November 28 and can be found at Charting the Course: A Vision for Coastal Ferries.
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