As Stage 3 of B.C.’s restart plan officially began, traffic leading to the Horseshoe Bay terminal was backed up on Highway 99 on July 1.
According to DriveBC, lines reached Cypress Bowl Road in West Vancouver.
At 9:55 a.m., BC Ferries emailed a service notice for the three routes departing Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo, Bowen Island and the Sunshine Coast, advising that the terminal was “experiencing extremely heavy traffic. Customers without reservations are advised to travel via Tsawwassen to Duke Point or Swartz Bay instead.”
For customers who had reservations, the notice said they should advise a flagger of their reservation, and BC Ferries would try to accommodate passengers with reservations on the next ferry if they were not able to check in for their booked sailing due to traffic.
By 12:19 p.m., BC Ferries tweeted that there was a five-sailing wait from Horseshoe Bay.
“We added an extra round trip on Route 3 yesterday afternoon,” BC Ferries manager of corporate communications, Astrid Chang, told Coast Reporter in an email on July 2.
Although there were no medical incidents for Route 3, she said, “we experienced a medical emergency which delayed a vessel on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route and compounded the pre-ticketing traffic volume at Horseshoe Bay late yesterday.”
Since June 25, a second vessel began extra sailings on the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route, which will continue throughout the summer season. This will add either three or four additional round trips – up to eight extra sailings – Thursdays through Mondays.
Maximum passenger capacity aboard BC Ferries vessels has returned to 100 per cent, Chang said on July 2, following guidance from Transport Canada.
During the long waits on July 1, District of Sechelt Coun. Matt McLean tweeted to Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming that both ships servicing Route 3 were sitting for half a day on June 30 and one would sit for half of July 1.
McLean, who sits on the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee, told Coast Reporter on July 2 that a five-sailing wait is “extraordinary.” While he said Canada Day is a peak day for travel to the Sunshine Coast, there weren’t any increased sailings on the Tuesday or Wednesday leading up to the holiday, which he believes could have reduced the demand on Thursday. Instead, only the usual eight sailings a day were scheduled.
“I believe … the only extra capacity available, given their current ships, is somewhere between the Queen of Surrey and Queen of Coquitlam. They’re the only ships that are sitting in the summer, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays,” he said.
In May, Sechelt council wrote to Fleming after a summer trial for Route 3 was cancelled by BC Ferries. The council asked the province to increase the contracted level of service for Route 3 to 12 sailings a day every day during peak season.
McLean acknowledged that BC Ferries already provides more service to Route 3 than their contract dictates, and added the change needs to come from the province.
Following the long waits on July 1, the next day BC Ferries installed pop-up tents at Horseshoe Bay, Langdale, Departure Bay, Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, and Duke Point terminal for foot passengers to form a line during peak travel times.
As of July 2, reservations for Sunday sailings from Langdale had booked almost all of the reservable space, except for the first sailing in the morning. From Horseshoe Bay, bookable space was still available for the afternoon and evening.
“We do anticipate a lot of people will be travelling this weekend,” Chang said. “Our terminals are fully staffed, and customers will see traffic control flaggers assisting with traffic flow. Customers can find travel tips at bcferries.com and follow us on Twitter for the latest sailing information.”
– with files from Sophie Woodrooffe