To soften the journey (a bit)… Corporate blue seat padding has belatedly appeared on the new metal seating on the Mayne Queen.
Visioning the schedule…. In early July Southern Gulf Island ferry advisory committee representatives will meet with Saltspring Island reps to discuss ideas about scheduling for both route 9 (that’s the mainland) and route 5. The SSIFAC has been working on some possible schedules and this is the other islands’ first chance to see what they've achieved and add their input.
And at Swartz Bay (Lowering the Level of Angst)
You are there on time, but will you make the ferry? The SGI wicket has a long line and there is not a single vehicle at the Saltspring window. Help is at hand. The following reassuring message was received from BCF: (Suggest you print a copy or two and keep them to hand in case a ticket agent is unaware that the policy has changed.)
“From: Stephen Nussbaum, rregional manager, terminal operations
BCF Southern Region
“Our ticketing strategy continues to be to maximize throughput and minimize customer wait-time while managing ticket sale cut-offs and order of arrival for lane assignment.
To accomplish this the tower controllers and ticketing supervisors generally have one to two booths open for SSI and SGI destined traffic and two to three open for Vancouver destined traffic. Two to three booths generally remain dedicated to Vancouver and or reservations, while the remaining booths serve the Gulf Islands, SSI and SGI. In these cases Gulf Island booths will display both SSI and SGI destinations signs; additional destination combinations may be added depending on traffic demand.
It's our intention to sell tickets to both SGI and SSI destinations whether one booth is open or two are open.
An exception is at times close to ticket sales cut-off. In these circumstances, rather than closing both booths for the cut-off, the ticket booths will adjust to sell to single destinations: SGI or SSI. It allows a single booth to stop sales for the ticket cut-off while continuing sales at the other booth for a sailing departing later. In these cases, the booth can be dedicated to sell tickets to the sailing approaching departure time without affecting the later sailing.
The other exception is in cases of an overload where ticketing order determines lane assignment and loading order. In these cases it may be in the best interest of customer service to separate booths to sell to single destinations.
I trust a renewed focus on these practices will decrease wait-times and line-ups outside our ticket booths for our customers.”
Please let your FAC reps (contact info below) know about your experience with the new policy.
More money…you’ll have noticed that the fuel surcharge has once again appeared on your BCF receipt. The minor routes have basically used up the credit balance amassed over the past few years; thus the current fuel surcharge. BCF makes its best estimate on future fuel prices, and adjusts up or down as they go. Far better to guess high and provide a rebate than to guess low with nothing to fill the gap.
Welcome…. The newly appointed ferry commissioner Gord Macatee has been meeting with ferry dependent communities up the Coast about how the fare cap works and his concern about the process. He's interested in visiting all the ferry dependent communities. We’ll extend an invitation for him to visit Saturna this summer.
What’s in a name…? At the commissioner’s Alert Bay meeting a member of the regional district board, suggested he would like to see the words "minor and major" deleted from descriptions of BCF routes and something like "rural and urban routes used instead, because minor routes aren't minor to us at all. “ Good idea.
What’s black and white and read all over? …. The new BCF Southern Gulf Islands schedule. The print version available on board and at terminals is an adjunct to the on-line version. BCF provides electronic schedules only for all of its routes except the SGI where an exception was made because of the complex nature of the routes. The SGIFAC urged BCF to continue the local printed schedule because of the anticipated extremely negative impact on the SGI. BCF listened, involve the FACs in the production, and delivered on its commitment, including black type and white paper for easier reading. “The FACs were extremely pleased with how BCF handled our request,” says Brian Hollingshead, chair of the FAC council. The current process will be reviewed - in consultation with the FACs. Your comments are welcome.
In case you missed it …… A review of B.C.’s Coastal Ferry Act is underway to identify improvements which would better allow the commissioner to balance the interests of ferry users with the financial sustainability of the ferry operators, BC Ferries. Commissioner Gord Macatee will look into the current price cap model and assess its impact on the affordability of future ferry fares and the sustainability of coastal communities that depend on ferries for travel and commerce. The review is expected to take six months. A final report will be delivered to the B.C. government.
Macatee was appointed commissioner effective May 1. He is an independent officer of the legislature. “Ferry users are telling the commissioner's office they expect a system where the fare increases are reasonable, affordable and predictable,” says Macatee. The commissioner regulates fares and service levels on BC Ferries’ 25 saltwater routes.
With thanks to Brian Hollingshead for many contributions.