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Better ferry service to B.C.'s island and coastal communities starts Monday

Last Updated Mar 28, 2019 at 11:37 pm PDT

FILE PHOTO. (Stephanie Froese, NEWS 1130 Photo)

April 1st marks the return of increased service for some minor BC ferry routes cutback in 2014

Other communities -- such as the Sunshine Coast -- argue they're next in line for better service

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — If you’re planning on travelling to some of the smaller Island communities off B.C.’s coast, it’s going to get a bit easier starting next week.

Changes go into effect April 1 that increase the number of sailings on some minor ferry routes that were cut back in 2014, including places like Bowen Island, Quadra Island, Cortes Island, Campbell River and Powell River.

RELATED: B.C. government reverses course on coastal ferry cuts, holds fares

A new agreement between BC Ferries and the government will see increases on 10 routes, with an additional 2,700 round trips added to the schedules for those communities.

Meantime, people on the Sunshine Coast have been promised more frequent service in the coming years, especially as traffic on the route to Horseshoe Bay has seen about a 10-per-cent increase in traffic in the last ten years.

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Diana Mumford is on the Ferry Advisory Committee for the Sunshine Coast, and says the next major focus will be getting hourly service between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale beyond the summer months. Traffic is more pronounced from Easter to Thanksgiving.

“We have been told that by 2024 we should be able to have two ships on our route full-year, but ships aren’t a cheap purchase,” she says.

That need is increasing, she says, as more families find affordable housing on the Sunshine Coast, and make the commute into the Vancouver-area everyday.

Mumford says she welcomes restored service to some routes that faced cutbacks, and the fact that there is a freeze on fare hikes, but there’s a catch.

“It’s a double-sided sword, because, by having the rate frozen, it also is putting a lot more people on the ferries, which (means) then we have overloading,” she says. “There’s definitely need for more ships.”

RELATED: BC Ferries looking for public input on new ferries

She also notes the ferry corporation is looking at introducing different fares that would fluctuate depending on the time of day.

Keith Rush is on the Ferry Advisory Committee for the Chemainus to Thetis Island route, and says re-instating the old schedules for that route isn’t necessary.

“Nothing will change on our route, but we were able to work with BC Ferries to design a better schedule,” he says.

That being said, he says there are certain times of year that the service can’t keep up with demand.

“In the summer time, there are summer camps on the island. The summer residents show up. Construction is happening,” he says. “We are challenged to meet demand so we are always pushing for better service.”

Changes to the Port Hardy to Prince Rupert, and Skidegate to Alliford Bay routes will take longer to implement because of some major changes to operations, including hiring new crews.

Schedules along Route 6, Crofton to Vesuvius will be fully put in place by May 1.