British Columbia

BC Ferries explores passenger ferry service for Westshore near Victoria

BC Ferries is exploring options for passenger ferry service between Victoria and the fast-growing communities on the Capital Region's Westshore.

Pre-feasibility study examines issues such as cost, ridership and possible routes to downtown Victoria

The pre-feasibility study for BC Ferries examines the options for a Damen Fast Ferry 3209 to serve communities on the Westshore. (BC Ferries/SNC-Lavalin)

BC Ferries is exploring options for passenger ferry service between Victoria and the fast-growing communities on the Capital Region's Westshore.

A pre-feasibility study conducted by SNC-Lavalin examines issues such as cost, ridership and possible routes for fast-catamaran passenger service between Colwood, Esquimalt and Victoria.

The communities on the Westshore are among the fastest growing in the province. They are also most affected by traffic woes in the Capital region.

"No decisions have been made. This is a pre feasibility study, which means there is still a lot of discussion and a lot of conversation that takes place," said Astrid Braunschmidt, manager of communications for BC Ferries.

"There will be some stakeholder engagement over the next little while to see if we should look into this further."

Potential terminals

The study suggests potential ferry terminals in Colwood's Royal Bay, Esquimalt's outer harbour, and Ship Point at Victoria's inner harbour. 

It estimates the ferry would serve approximately 3,100 daily passengers in the first year. With growth in population on the Westshore, ridership could grow to 4,000 passengers each day by 2038.

The study suggests fares of $5.75 per person.

The model of ferry examined in the study would hold 294 passengers and could operate in wave heights up to 2.5 metres. Based on weather data for the region, that would require approximately one cancellation per year.

Financial implications

The investment to build all three terminals is pegged at $41 million. That figure would drop to $31 million without the Esquimalt terminal.

The study notes the business case for the Royal Bay-to-Esquimalt route is poor. 

But the financial performance of the Royal Bay-to-Ship Point route could be favourable, depending on a number of factors, including the number of staff required on the ship, the type of fuel used, and the frequency of service.

"Not only will it service our communities, but it's also not going to be a burden on taxpayers," said Colwood Mayor Rob Martin.

"The key, however, is going to be the province. The province is going to be the final determinant if this happens or not happens."

Further discussion

The Ministry of Transportation said it's aware BC Ferries is exploring passenger ferry service between the Westshore communities and downtown Victoria, but notes the study presents "a number of opportunities as well as challenges."

It is also undertaking its own South Island Transportation Strategy, which is exploring all modes of transportation, including marine options.

"We look forward to further discussions with stakeholders about how we can work together to lessen congestion and make life easier for people commuting in from the West Shore," the ministry said in a statement.


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