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Letter: What about the Bowen Ferry?

Travis Beals shares his thoughts - and data - on Bowen's BC Ferries route

Dear Editor,

BC Ferries has no plan for Bowen’s future.

In their newly released draft plan for 2024-2028 (available at, they acknowledge that Bowen has seen significant population growth (almost 16% in the 2016-2021 census interval), but – without any real explanation – they assume that even in 2029 we’ll have over 30% available capacity during peak season.

There are no plans mentioned for capacity expansion of the Snug Cove - Horseshoe Bay route, and indeed, the route is barely mentioned in the 163 page document. 

Meanwhile, ferry traffic data I received for the off-peak (Nov. 2021-April 2022) period shows that – even outside tourist season – the ferry is full or nearly so during the morning commute period and other key times. See and view the “Load Analysis Nov-Apr” tab for the data.

I grew up on Salt Spring Island, and the ferry there was a very different thing than it is here. I suspect part of the BC Ferries/Bowen disconnect is that — given Bowen’s proximity to Vancouver — our route is nearly unique in being a “commuter route”, with traffic heavily concentrated in a “rush hour” period. The BC Ferries analysis (which uses the same approach for Bowen as it does for most other routes) says we have lots of capacity available, but it gives little comfort to someone who couldn’t make a full 8:35 am ferry to know that the ferry 12 hours later will be 90% empty.

Furthermore, the impact of the planned new park/campground isn’t part of the model. The reality is that if Bowen’s population and tourist traffic keep growing rapidly without increases in ferry capacity, quality of life will be degraded for anyone who needs to use the ferry.

The solution here is two-fold: first, BC Ferries needs to work closely with the Municipality, Metro Van Parks, and Translink to ensure they all have a common, realistic set of assumptions. Second, BC Ferries needs to model the Snug Cove - Horseshoe Bay ferry appropriately as a commuter link.

Please send your feedback to and ask them to take these steps.

Thank you,

- Travis Beals