Thrilling updates from Nov. Ferry Advisory Committee meeting (not really, but here they are anyway)

As another month-long refit looms for the Queen of Capilano, BC Ferries representatives made their biannual stop on Bowen Island for the community Ferry Advisory Committee meeting Nov. 4. 

The Queen of Capilano will be out of service between Jan. 4 and Feb. 10, 2020 for refits. While the smaller Bowen Queen plies the Howe Sound waters, there will be parking discounts and assured loading for vehicles with four or more passengers in peak afternoon sailings on the Horseshoe Bay side. During the refit the ferry schedule will remain the same.

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Julian Barrera of Bowen Transportation Society, which runs the express bus between Horseshoe Bay and downtown Vancouver, asked for some financial support from BC Ferries during the refit to be able to run a bigger bus. Barrera said that the service is reaching capacity with the smaller bus and this refit could be an opportunity to funnel more people out of cars and onto bus seats. Peter King began the express bus in 2015 during the Queen of Capilano’s mid-life upgrade. BC Ferries representatives didn’t commit to anything but said they’d follow up. 

The new policy to require all passengers to disembark using the overhead walkway in Horseshoe Bay (with the exception of those needing to use the elevator or those with pets) was a contentious topic. While one member of the public said that unloading up top cost precious seconds in a tight bus connection, BC Ferries’ marine superintendent Captain Lance Lomax noted that this policy change was made out of concern for safety and efficiency. Passengers running across berths was of particular concern.

Ferry Advisory Committee chair Melanie Mason asked after an electric ferry, pointing out that Bowen just declared a climate emergency and the ferry contributes nearly 40 per cent of Bowen’s transportation-related emissions. BC Ferries representatives said that the plan is still to replace the Queen of Capilano in the late 2030s.

“You’re not likely to be the guinea pig [for electric ferries] but you could be very close to it depending on the advancements of the time,” said Peter Simpson, BC Ferries’ director of fleet operational strategy.

Other tidbits from the meeting include that engagement on-island for the new Snug Cove terminal building will likely begin in early 2020. The new BC Ferries website is launching in the spring and the new website will include reservations with flexible fares for the major routes but not Bowen at first. The Queen of Capilano refit won’t include wifi. BC Ferries also presented on the preliminary designs for the Horseshoe Bay terminal redevelopment, which is happening in phases over the coming decade. 

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