B.C. Ferries has rolled out an online survey to solicit feedback and ideas from users as it plots the future of the service to 2050 and beyond.
As of Tuesday, 1,686 responses have been submitted to the survey, which asks for feedback on issues such as affordability, efficiency, sustainability, safety, integrated transportation, reliability, accessibility, comfort and convenience.
The input process, which started Nov. 8 and runs until Nov. 28, includes virtual workshops with First Nations, B.C. Ferries staff, local and regional governments, and other groups.
A summary of the first stage of the engagement process is to be released in early 2024.
Additional engagement options, such as paper-based surveys and workshops, will be considered for the second round of engagement in the spring of 2024, said B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.
The final survey report is to be published by next summer.
The survey comes as B.C. Ferries faces continuing challenges, including mechanical problems and ongoing crew shortages resulting in cancellations and delays.
The three Coastal-class vessels, which transport vehicles and passengers on the major routes, are all facing replacement of their drive-motor rotors.
As a result, Coastal Celebration’s trips between Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island and Tsawwassen terminal on the Lower Mainland is now 15 minutes longer, as it takes a different route to avoid narrow and busy Active Pass.
The system is also operating without the Coastal Renaissance, which is moored in Nanaimo. It’s been out of service since late August after its motor was sent to the U.S. for repairs.
The ship will go into drydock for a regular refit once the motor is returned; it’s expected to return to service in mid-December.
Survey participants are asked if they work for B.C. Ferries, how often they use the ferries and why. A series of goals are listed and respondents are asked if they support them, to explain their reasons, and what could be added to the long-term goals and strategy.
It asks respondents about their priorities for the service, such as affordability, efficiency, reliability and being environmentally sensitive.
Questions about demographics are included and there’s room for general comments at the end.
Diana Mumford, chairperson of the coast’s ferry advisory committees, hopes the process results in concrete action. “Are we going to see anything, or is this just talk, talk, talk and no action?” she said Tuesday.
“That worries me because our ferry services are getting worse, not better.”
Mumford is concerned about B.C. Ferries’ latest four-year contract with the province, which sets minimum levels of service. She heads the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee and says the minimum levels of round-trip sailings for the Langdale-Horsehoe Bay route should be raised to recognize the growing number of people living in that area and the strong demand through the shoulder seasons in spring and fall.
When it comes to crewing issues, Mumford said there needs to be better support for employee training, the ability to move up within the company and for staff to feel supported and valued.
Crew shortages have not affected the Langdale route significantly, but some routes are “suffering quite excessively,” she said.
On other routes, there is just not enough service, Mumford said.
She understands that ferries are expensive to replace but said: “Let’s face it, this last two or three months we’ve had a lot of breakdowns.”
To learn more about plans and to take the survey go to: bcferriesprojects.ca/bc-ferries-charting-the-course.
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