A new website called FerryHostage.com has been launched by a local resident, but despite the curt wording, it is intended to be an unbiased information source.
“We didn’t really want to name it that because it’s not really politically correct, but we also recognized that politically correct just wasn’t going to get any attention,” explained the site’s operator, Stephanie Clarke. “So we figured, let’s get some attention.”
Clarke was inspired to begin the venture when she noticed that discourse surrounding the subject of ferries in Coastal communities was often disconnected.
By launching Ferry Hostage, Clarke said she hoped the website could become both a hub for community involvement and an informative resource for officials and those directly affected by changes to the ferries system.
The website offers the chance to conduct informal surveys, which Clarke said will be guided by the input of readers.
While its birth took place on the Sunshine Coast, she hopes to expand the operation and include other ferry-dependent communities.
Clarke said that folks are welcome to suggest survey topics and provide input to help steer the venture.
She hopes that in time, Ferry Hostage will grow to become a valuable information resource that local governments and organizations can use to aid the decision-making process.
“Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t get involved with things unless sometimes it’s a little more catchy, or in this case I think it’s kind of fun,” she said of the idea. “I look at it [this way]: why do we all have to be upset, why can’t we do something that produces some kind of result, but actually makes you laugh along the way?”
She asserted that Ferry Hostage was not tied to any sort of personal agenda, that beyond increasing communication around the subject of ferries by providing a one-stop information resource, she had no particular mission plan for the site.
Guiding the effort will be a task left for the residents, but Ferry Hostage also intends to aggregate related news stories and public commentary as a means of fueling discussion.
“If we just calm down and people stop ranting and actually start making some suggestions and tally those suggestions up, we could actually get somewhere,” Clarke mused. “I want this to be a tool for the public.”
Thus far the website has provided a forum for Coast-related ferry discussions like passenger-only service and the cost of fares.
Survey topics have included the impact of rising fares, as well as a detailed 19-question ‘impact survey’ that targets residents of the Sunshine Coast with questions like “do you think the economic conditions on the Sunshine Coast are influenced by general B.C. Ferry service and schedules?”
Comments include testimonials and reactions, like one poster who claimed that after 12 years of commuting, the cost of fares has meant he now needs to sell his home and move off-Coast.
“I will miss the Coast, but I will not miss the ferries at all and will likely visit rarely after I leave due to the cost,” the poster, identifying himself as Andrew McKenzie, wrote. “Perhaps they [B.C. Ferries] should survey the commuters instead of the tourists.”
Recent sailings have been canvassed by people conducting surveys on behalf of the corporation.
But Clarke said those customer satisfaction surveys could be biased.
“One of the questions was, they asked you to rate your experience with B.C. Ferries just on the day that they interviewed you. You weren’t allowed to add any historical experience at all,” she explained. “It was just the day they interviewed you on that particular ferry. That was controlled.”
According to her, Ferry Hostage has also been critiqued for having biased surveys. While admitting that the first surveys might be “a little slanted,” Clarke said she hoped that by offering people the chance to influence the direction the site takes, the venture could be shaped in a beneficial way.
“The door’s wide open,” she said.