BC Ferries (BCF) is pitching a “refined” version of its plan to cut the 6:20 a.m. Sunday round trip from Langdale on Route 3 during the off-peak season.
The proposed schedule, however, would create a three-hour-and-20-minute gap between the first and second sailings of the day.
Under the plan announced Wednesday, the current 8:20 a.m. sailing from Langdale would move to 7 a.m. to offset the loss of the 6:20 a.m. trip, and the next ferry leaving Langdale would depart at 10:20 a.m.
Route 3 ferry advisory committee (FAC) chair Barry Cavens said he suspected the later time for the second sailing could affect more people than cutting the 6:20 a.m. round trip.
“I don’t think we as a FAC or the government are in a position to say. I think we have to sample the people on the boat,” Cavens said.
Many passengers take the current 8:20 a.m. sailing to go to the city for shopping or other activities, he noted, asking how many would be willing to leave instead at 7 a.m. or 10:20 a.m. “Or are they just going to stay home?”
Cavens also questioned whether the 7 a.m. departure from Langdale would help the early commuters who now take the 6:20 a.m. ferry and have to be at work by 8 a.m.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “That’s why it’s important that people get involved in this consultation process and let their voice be heard.”
BCF said it will consult with the public using telephone and online surveys and will meet with community leaders before finalizing its schedule options.
The plan reduces the number of off-peak Sunday round trips on Route 3 from eight to seven, with the first sailing from Horseshoe Bay leaving at 9:20 a.m. instead of the current 7:20 a.m. departure.
The off-peak season runs from the beginning of September to the end of June.
In a press release, BCF said its “refinement options” for routes facing service cuts were developed in the wake of last fall’s public engagement meetings, where citizens overwhelmingly rejected the proposed service reduction plan.
“These draft options take into consideration feedback heard during the recent engagement process and will be designed to demonstrate operationally feasible schedules that meet the targeted savings for service reductions,” the release said.
For Route 3, the province estimated the 40 cancelled round trips would net annual savings of $21,000 in labour and $77,000 in fuel.
For Route 7 passengers travelling from Earls Cove to Saltery Bay in the off-peak season, BCF is proposing to replace the existing 8:20 p.m. and 10:05 p.m. sailings with one trip at 10 p.m., resulting in an 8:55 p.m. departure from Saltery Bay instead of the current 7:20 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. sailings.
“The rationale is that this supports connectivity to the Route 3 sailings,” Cavens said, adding that Route 3’s cancelled 7:20 a.m. Sunday sailing from Horseshoe Bay currently connects to the 10:25 a.m. sailing from Earls Cove, “so that connection will be lost for those travelling through to Powell River.”
Scott Randolph, chair of Powell River’s community ferry schedules committee, said one of the priorities for his group is to ensure the last sailing from Earls Cove departs at 10 p.m. during the peak season, instead of 9:35 p.m. as BCF is proposing.
“The main thing for us is maintaining the full day trip to Vancouver — not only for commercial traffic, but for people who have medical appointments,” Randolph said. “Our suggestion and our feedback is that we’d like to see the last ferry out of Earls Cove at 10 o’clock, whether peak or off-peak.”
The same applies to the 5:35 a.m. sailing from Saltery Bay, he added. “We’re saying: take the off-peak schedule and apply it year round.”
Randolph, the manager of economic development for the City of Powell River and chair of the Economic Development Association of BC, called the cuts hitting all three routes on the Upper Sunshine Coast “worrisome.”
“It’s about quality of life with Powell River,” he said. “You reduce the quality of life and it’s not as an attractive place to be, whether it’s doing business or living.”
Final schedules will be published and posted on the BCF website on March 31, providing four weeks’ notice of the changes before they go into effect on April 28.