British Columbia

BC Ferries data reveals routes where drivers are least likely to make sailing

CBC News received data on capacity utilization, overloaded vehicles and delays for every BC Ferries sailing in 2016 following a freedom of information request filed that same year.

The worst backlogs occur for ferries travelling between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay

Of the 34 sailings in B.C. where over 500 vehicles were left behind, 24 were on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

You're most likely to face a sailing wait for a B.C. ferry if you're travelling between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

But the worst backlogs seem to be on a different route — between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay in Nanaimo.

CBC News received data on capacity utilization, overloaded vehicles and delays for every BC Ferries sailing in 2016 following a freedom of information request filed that same year. 

Capacity utilization is a measure of how full a ferry is, based on the number of vehicles on board.

500 vehicles left behind

The data showed that the 10 sailings with the most vehicles left behind were on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay route, eight of which arrived at Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.

And the 12 sailings with the most vehicles were on the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route, all arriving at Horseshoe Bay. 

Overall, a driver still has a higher chance of not getting on a Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay ferry — 15 per cent of all trips had more than 100 vehicles left behind, BC Ferries estimates. 

But of the 34 sailings in B.C. where over 500 vehicles were left behind, 24 were on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route. 

Peak times

Not surprisingly, all of these sailings were on weekends between May and August, all departing between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. 

"Certainly there are some long weekends and times throughout the summer where we do see overloads at some of our terminals," said Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for BC Ferries.

"What we have to keep in mind is if we were able to meet absolutely every demand for traffic, then our systems would be overbuilt for times like in January when traffic is a lot lower than in the summertime."

Marshall said that on average, ferries traveling between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay are 70 per cent full, based on the number of vehicles on board.

BC Ferries doesn't keep statistics on how many people are forced to wait for an extra sailing, but does track "the number of vehicles that were left behind within the terminal compound."

It also tracks a "visual estimate" of number of vehicles outside the terminal.

With files from Justin McElroy and Tara Carman

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