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Proposed electric passenger ferry service hosting Sunshine Coast open houses

Community drop-in style events are booked for Tuesday, Jan. 17 between 5pm and 8pm at Gibsons Public Market. On the following evening, a similar event is slated to start at 5:30pm on Bowen Island at that community’s library.

More than 800 responses have come into Greenline Ferries online survey about a potential electric-powered passenger-only ferry service linking the Coast and Bowen Island with downtown Vancouver. The survey remains open and Greenline’s spokeperson, Callum Campbell, told Coast Reporter his team is looking forward to “digging further into some of the comments received” at upcoming community open houses.

The first of those drop-in style events is booked for Tuesday, Jan. 17 between 5 and 8 p.m. at Gibsons Public Market. The following evening, Greenline is slated to conduct a similar event starting at 5:30 p.m. on Bowen Island at that community’s library. Attendees will be able to complete the survey at these events.

When asked about survey responses to date, Campbell said “Folks are dissatisfied with what has happened with the coastal ferry system, and that is understandable. It is a really challenging time for operators right now and in the comments that people include with their responses you really get an understanding of what the pressure points are for people, like service reliability and travel costs.”

Events to help develop service feasibility plan

Campbell said Greenline’s goal in conducting the survey and community events is to gather details to build a “feasibility plan” for the service by the end of March. Campbell said that document will need to answer questions that the funders of the potential new service will ask. In his view, those start with “does this service make sense” and “have we got green lights across the board to keep moving forward to the next steps." Campbell said those steps would be securing financing and regulatory approvals, with a view to having the ferry service in place in 2025.

“It is expensive to start up such a system and we want to be really well prepared. Having support from the community, really understanding the technology and ridership well, those are the pieces that we need.

"We are advancing on three fronts: one is the technology. Scoping out the boats, the terminals and charging systems, and understanding those very clearly. Another is the ridership model which goes further than just ferry terminal to terminal. We need to understand where people are starting from, how many people are travelling and where they need to go to truly understand ridership. And the fun piece is the community piece, talking to folks from the community about what works and what doesn’t. We know what the building blocks for such service are and we want to talk about those with the community.”

Over the past three months, Greenline has held meetings with local First Nations as well as other government and community organizations about their concept.

Exploring new transportation options

To help expand on how people think about travel on Coast and off, Greenline has included the Sunshine Coast Electric Vehicle Association, Transportation Choices Sunshine Coast and Coastal Rides in its open house plans.

“We’ve invited these groups because all of us are about pushing to do things a new way, pushing for transportation solutions that maybe are better than what we are doing right now,” said Campbell.

“But when it comes to a passenger only ferry service sometimes I feel like saying, this really isn’t new at all, we are only doing what so many other jurisdictions have already done,” Campbell stated. As an example, he pointed at Seattle, where that area’s car ferry system was augmented with what he views as a “people mover” – the Kitsap Fast Ferry.

In 2017, Kitsap Transit launched fast ferry service between the Kitsap Peninsula and downtown Seattle. Since the inception of that service, it reports having carried more than 1.4 million foot passengers on three routes.