Starting Wednesday, Feb. 19, BC Ferries will launch a pilot program that offers direct service, on select days, between Blubber Bay terminal on Texada Island and Little River terminal in Comox.
BC Ferries developed this pilot in cooperation with the Northern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee for the convenience of Texada Island travellers.
Every Wednesday and Saturday, the first sailing on the Powell River-Comox route to leave Westview Terminal will make a stop at Blubber Bay to load a maximum of 10 standard vehicles, prior to continuing on to Comox.
On the last sailing leaving Comox, Texada-bound customers will have an opportunity to sail directly to Blubber Bay. Regardless of deck space available, only the first 10 standard vehicles to arrive for each applicable sailing will be loaded on the vessel. Commercial vehicles are not included in the pilot.
BC Ferries executive director of public affairs Deborah Marshall said because this is a two-year pilot, BC Ferries will be assessing the viability of the expanded run.
“We’ve been talking to our customers on Texada Island for some time about this pilot,” said Marshall. “We got the dock upgraded on Texada so they are able to accommodate the Salish-class ferries. We’re pleased to be able to start the trial.”
Marshall said it will be convenient for residents of Texada Island to have that direct connection to Comox if they have medical appointments or things like that.
“We’re pleased that we are able to start offering this route,” said Marshall.
She added that because of the Texada Island stopovers on Wednesdays and Saturdays, there will be a different schedule in place, so it is something customers will need to be notified about. On those days, the Salish ferry will be departing Powell River at 7:35 a.m. rather than 8:05 a.m., and the ferry will leave Texada Island at 8:15 a.m. Returning home from Vancouver Island on Wednesdays the ferry will leave Comox at 6:40 p.m., and on Saturdays, at 7:10 p.m. The full new schedule is available at bcferries.com.
According to a media advisory from BC Ferries, customers departing from Blubber Bay should stage their vehicles in the small lot off the left side of the road just prior to reaching the terminal. The lot will have signage indicating it is in use for these specific sailings, and customers are required to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes prior to scheduled sailing time. A staff member will direct vehicles from the lot when the vessel is ready to load.
Customers will pay fares at the cashier in the Coastal Café onboard the vessel, with a single rate of $35 for standard vehicle and $10.95 for the driver, adult passengers in a vehicle or adult foot passengers. B.C. seniors travelling on Wednesdays when the senior discount applies will pay $35 for the vehicle only. Cash, credit card and debit are acceptable payment methods on board, however, the Experience Card will not be available as an onboard payment method.
Customers departing from Little River also must arrive a minimum of 30 minutes prior to sailing time and will pay fares at the ticket booth prior to being directed to an applicable staging lane. A fare of $35 for standard vehicles and $13.50 for adult passengers ($10.95 with Experience Card) will apply. Current payment methods include cash, credit card and Experience Card.
According to the media advisory, the pilot will be in place for up to two years with ongoing analysis of its viability. Success will be measured by a number of factors including the mitigation of additional costs, how well used the sailings are, fare payments, effectiveness of the modified schedule, ongoing safe and secure operations and continued support from all communities involved.
With these criteria, BC Ferries will evaluate the pilot when considering future options, the media advisory stated.