Holiday season travellers are advised to allow extra time to compensate for heavy traffic and foul weather to get to their destinations. (News Bulletin file photo)

Ferries, airports brace for higher holiday traffic volumes

Travellers advised to allow extra travel time to account for higher traffic and winter weather

Traffic over B.C. Ferries’ loading ramps has ramped up as people cross the Salish Sea to visit family and friends over the holidays.

An enhanced schedule that started Thursday and runs until Jan. 2, is boosting B.C. Ferries’ capacity to move people and vehicles by adding more than 175 sailings to its regular schedules. Most of those sailings were added to the Tsawwassen-Schwartz Bay route – the corporation’s busiest route – but 46 of those sailings have been tacked onto the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay run.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, said travellers are already on the move for the holiday season with the busiest days expected to be Saturday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday to Thursday, Dec. 26-28.

“To be honest, we’ve just started the holiday season,” Marshall said. “Traffic started to ramp up. We started extra sailings yesterday and we do have those extra sailings right through until Jan. 2. I’m sure it will be a typical holiday season; lots of families connecting with other families and friends and whatnot. Over this time last year we had about one million passengers and about 400,000 vehicles.”

Departure Bay is the Island’s second busiest terminal, but Duke Point continues to gain popularity with travellers transiting to destinations beyond Vancouver, especially since the South Fraser Perimeter Road opened, connecting Tsawwassen to major Lower Mainland routes.

“We do find more customers using it there and, depending on where you’re going in metro Vancouver, it might be a more convenient route to take instead of driving through Vancouver from Horseshoe Bay and then trying to get downtown,” Marshall said.

No matter which direction people are travelling over the holidays, there are savings to be had by choosing the off-peak times to sail. B.C. Ferries has a holiday savings program that started Thursday.

“We also have a promotion going on, so if people are travelling at off-peak times they can save a few bucks, which is always nice anytime of year, but particularly this time of year,” Marshall said.

Mike Hooper, Nanaimo Airport president and CEO, said airport staff aren’t expecting any significant delays but recommends travellers arrive earlier than normal anyway.

“Over Christmas you want to come a bit earlier,” Hooper said. “Anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half before their flight is fine.”

Hooper said travellers can always visit the airport’s website to find out about the status of their flight.

Whether flying or sailing, it’s a good idea to allow for extra travel time over the holidays, not just because of higher traffic volumes, but for inclement weather as well.

Environment Canada issued a weather alert Friday warning that developing weather conditions will likely bring heavy snow to parts of eastern Vancouver Island beginning Sunday.



photos@nanaimobulletin.com

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