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Ferries group makes progress

Revised schedules improve connectivity

A working committee assigned the task of working with BC Ferries to refine proposed schedule changes has claimed some measure of success.

Powell River Working Committee on Ferry Schedule Refinements managed to negotiate what it believes are workable sailing schedules under the new curtailed BC Ferries regime.

The working group met with BC Ferries on March 4. “BC Ferries were very responsive to our proposals,” said Scott Randolph, City of Powell River manager of economic development and chair of the working committee. “We were pleased that they were so responsive. We can see clear evidence of that in the revised schedules. We were pleased also to make some last-minute changes to ensure that basic community needs were being met.”

Randolph explained that the committee was able to go beyond just the connectivity issues on BC Ferries’ Route 7 Earls Cove-Saltery Bay, and improve the proposed sailing schedules for Route 3, Horseshoe Bay-Langdale, as well.

A long-standing issue with Route 7, namely the 5:40 pm departure, was too late for people coming up from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay, said Randolph. Changes were made to adjust this issue as well.

“Route 18, Texada Island-Westview, was a sticking point,” he said. “The curtailed schedule initially created problems for Lafarge [Canada Inc.], who were faced with keeping their workforce intact in light of sailings that left workers on the late shift all but stranded.”

Further, he said, elderly members of the Texada community faced rifts between sailings that made it difficult for them to travel to Powell River and back in a reasonable amount of time. These problems were sorted as well. High school students travelling to Texada from Westview also received a boost when BC Ferries agreed to switch the 4:15 pm sailing back to 3:45 pm.

“The big change was on the Comox Route 17 schedule, that originally took away sailings both Saturday and early Sunday morning. However,” Randolph said, “the door is still open and BC Ferries is willing to consider further changes if required.”

The negotiation process was first kickstarted in November 2013, when three local government leaders—Colin Palmer, Powell River Regional District chair, Clint Williams, Tla’amin (Sliammon) First Nation chief, and Dave Formosa, mayor, wrote a letter asking that BC Ferries Corporation work with the community on refining schedules so that they would have less of a negative impact on community organizations, businesses and residents.

“We formed a committee made up of 12 members representing a variety of interest groups and residents and businesses,” Palmer said.

The committee received more than 200 responses during a public survey that ran from December 20, 2013, through to January 24. “We had excellent responses from the business community, especially those that are dependent on shipment of goods and services,” said Randolph. “Overall we weren’t too surprised with what we saw in the results.”

Randolph added his impression that BC Ferries needs a “top-down appraisal” in order to build a sustainable service.

“We took the data that was generated and used it to make changes to the schedules based on community need,” he said, “but also keeping in mind cost efficiencies that the government was trying to achieve. Our bottom line was making sure that the community was taken care of no matter what.”