Taking reservations

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VANCOUVER, B.C. – As of the week of Feb. 21, BC Ferries was once again taking reservations for its conventional ferry running from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay.

While a conventional ferry had already been returned to the route, truckers had not initially been able to book space on the sailings.

“BC Ferries told me it is … allocating up to 400 linear feet on every C-class sailing, which is space for four or five semis,” says Louise Yako, director of policy and communication for the British Columbia Trucking Association. Yako says that BC Ferries may expand that allowance up to 800 linear feet if the demand is there.

“Because it’s a really small traffic area, they are asking trucks to show up at least 45 minutes early, because sometimes you can be stuck there and miss the reservation,” says Yako. BC Ferries says the cutoff time for reservations will be 30 minutes before a sailing.

Despite the introduction of reservations on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay run, British Columbia truckers hauling to and from Vancouver Island are still seeing significant delays.

On Feb. 1, BC Ferries reinstated the conventional ferry service on runs from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, barely a month after it replaced it breakdown-prone PacifiCat fast ferries. They also did not allow for commercial traffic, which meant that truck traffic was rerouted some 50 km further away to Tsawwassen.

“We’re hoping they reinstate more,” says Wayne Lamontagne of Cobra Trucking.

“But it is still a problem on the north run. They’re trying to divert us. They do not want commercial vehicles from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay. But you can’t be telling people where to go when you’re doing business.”

Over the past few weeks, while BC Ferries was evaluating the need to re-introduce reservations, much of the commercial traffic was diverted to the Tsawwassen route

“They call it managing the traffic,” says Lamontagne of the no-reservation policy.

“Every other sailing (on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay run) allows trucks,” adds Yako. “But there was no reservation for trucks, so you were taking a real chance. If trucks didn’t get on, they were often waiting at least two sailings – as many as four hours – to get space on the ferry.

“And they could still get on the other route and they’re guaranteed to get on, even if it’s a longer trip,” says Yako of the Tsawwassen runs.

A reservation system wasn’t immediately put in place because BC Ferries claimed the Horseshoe Bay route was under-utilized. And even now, it has only committed to running C-class ferries on the route until December 2000.

“On one night there were four trucks left overnight at Horseshoe Bay, and another night, eight trucks,” says Yako. “We’re grateful about the C-class ferry, but we think BC Ferries can maximize its capacity by using reservations.”

BC Ferries’ operations vice-president Mike Carter will hold a meeting in March to review the service, says Yako.

Lamontagne adds that he’s heard rumors that BC Ferries is trying to find a buyer for the fast ferries.

“They should have built some super ferries,” says Lamontagne. “It’s the biggest waste of money the government has ever had.”

All levels of government in the province are increasingly affected by the traffic chaos that exists in the province. Trucks that end up rerouted to the Tsawwassen departure point go through the municipality of Delta, a largely agricultural community, and Delta Mayor Lois Jackson says her community now sees 2,000 trucks a day on roads not built for that capacity.

“Inasmuch as we want the goods to move, we still need support from senior levels of government to help us with the financing,” says Jackson. “It’s budget time for everyone, and we don’t want to have to wait for next year.”

A special meeting on the issue has been set for March 7, and will include representatives from the BC Transportation Finance Authority, the Vancouver Port Authority, Translink (the regional transportation authority), BC Ferries, the BCTA, the deputy minister of highways, and representatives from the Fraser port.

Proposals introduced so far include upgrading the existing River Road, which runs through residential Delta, at a cost of more than $2 million. The South Fraser perimeter road could also be extended through to the Alex Fraser bridge, and east through the industrial area to connect with the ports. This project, says Jackson, has been pegged at a cost of more than $450 million.

Jackson suggests doing something with Hwy. 1. “Historically, Hwy. 1 connected people to Horseshoe Bay and Vancouver Island, as part of the Trans-Canada system … Why not re-designate the highway to handle some commercial traffic?” n

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