B.C. Ferries vehicle traffic lines up along Stewart Avenue this past weekend. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin)

Editorial: Ferry lineups harm tourism

Friday and Sunday lineups seem to be forming earlier and extending later

At this rate, we’re going to run out of space along Stewart Avenue to hold all that ferry traffic.

B.C. Ferries announced its passenger numbers for the first quarter of 2017 and reported record-breaking passenger volumes. It probably wasn’t much of a surprise to those of us who have spent too many long afternoons sweltering in our vehicles and wallowing in lack-of-reservation regret.

Any of us who have lived on Vancouver Island for any length of time pride ourselves on knowing exactly when the ferry lineups are going to be at their ugliest. This summer, though, it’s proving to be an inexact science as the Friday afternoon and Sunday afternoon lineups are forming earlier and extending later.

It follows that Nanaimo must be having a strong tourism season. As the Harbour City and the Hub City, we’re surely seeing benefits as a pinch point for transportation to and from Vancouver Island. The problem is that when tourism is at its peak is the time when Nanaimo needs to make its best impression. Two-sailing waits aren’t a good look for our city.

Obviously, no one solution can fix what ails our ferry service.

Additional sailings sound great until one starts to consider the logistics of the vessels, staffing and terminal capacity required, factoring in the amount of time realistically needed to load and unload traffic.

A better understood and communicated reservation system is a start. A foot ferry would alleviate pressure. More parking at Departure Bay would help. Public transit improvements on the Nanaimo side might nudge up the number of walk-ons and entice a few more of us to leave our cars at home. More commercial development, like there is at Horseshoe Bay, would improve the experience for tourists, but of course it’s up to private interests to identify and capitalize on opportunities there, if they exist.

Marathon ferry lineups indicate the system has problems. At the same time, record traffic volumes prove that Nanaimo is in the travel plans for a lot of people, and that’s a positive.

Let’s learn from long lineups and look at ways of limiting them. Being a harbour is our motto – we simply have to be good at it.

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