On June 5, just two days after its truly ludicrous new Langdale schedule had gone into effect, BC Ferries suddenly reversed course and added a later round-trip sailing to the route.
Instead of the last boat leaving Langdale at 6:30 p.m., an 8:20 sailing was added. Instead of departing at 7:25 p.m. from Horseshoe Bay, the last sailing back is now 9:15.
The quick about-face was a testament to the efficacy of community outrage. BC Ferries had placed the Sunshine Coast on an after-supper curfew, and in response the community blew a collective gasket.
Residents vented on social media, local governments publicly condemned the new schedule in the strongest terms, the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee worked behind the scenes to apply pressure, MLA Nicholas Simons called on his government to act, and customers made sure BC Ferries got an earful.
In letters, emails and conference calls, the FAC and organizations like the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce laid out the dire implications for businesses, services, essential workers, commuters and residents travelling for medical reasons. Perhaps crucially, one day before the new sailings were added, the two mayors and the SCRD chair raised the issue in a conference call with Premier John Horgan.
BC Ferries deserves credit for restoring some sanity to the Route 3 schedule, but with serious reservations. The original plan demonstrated that the company was willing to sacrifice basic service to the Sunshine Coast “in order to protect the long-term sustainability of the ferry system,” as one of its officials described the rationale.
This is a lesson to remember as new schedules roll out and as BC Ferries adjusts its fleet replacement plans in the wake of lost revenues. Early last year, president and CEO Mark Collins said the company was hoping to start permanent two-ship service out of Langdale in the 2024 fiscal year, after the Queen of Oak Bay is freed up to run in tandem with the Queen of Surrey. Will that timeline now be extended? If something has to give, will it be, once again, the needs of the Sunshine Coast?
Assume it will be and prepare accordingly. The latest battle shows that if Coasters get mad enough, and turn the political pressure up high enough, sanity can prevail.