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Ferry traffic to Island up on holiday weekend

Oct 09 2012
Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest weekend of the year for B.C. Ferries. 

Thanksgiving is traditionally the busiest weekend of the year for B.C. Ferries.

Photograph by: Victoria Times Colonist , .

Ferry traffic to and from Vancouver Island was up nearly five per cent this Thanksgiving weekend over last year, according to a sampling of numbers from two of the system’s busiest routes.

Vessels running on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay and Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen routes were near or close to capacity for most sailings on the busiest days of Thursday, Friday and Monday, say officials at B.C. Ferries.

Passenger numbers were compared from four of the eight vessels that served those routes both last year and this year on Thanksgiving, the busiest time of the year for travelling on the ferries. Together, those vessels carried about 136,675 passengers, a bump of about 6,700 people from the same three days in 2011.

The financially strapped Crown corporation is experiencing overall record-low ridership, but the weekend numbers show “a noticeable jump,” said Darin Guenette, public-affairs manager for B.C. Ferries.

He said it’s not clear why the numbers were up, but the good weather, special events and other factors play a role.

The Victoria Marathon was also held on Thanksgiving weekend last year.

The numbers from the selected vessels just give a snapshot of the type of traffic seen over the weekend, according to B.C. Ferries. Two Spirit vessels operating between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen carried 83,551 passengers, up from the 78,647 who travelled those days in 2011.

Between Departure Bay and Horseshoe Bay, the Queen of Oak Bay and the Queen of Cowichan carried about 53,124 passengers, compared to 51,311 last year.

The weekend’s added congestion was evident in the full parking lots at all four terminals, as well as the lot at the Duke Point terminal near Nanaimo.

“It means a lot more people parked their cars and walked on,” Guenette said. “Why are more people travelling? It’s anybody’s guess.”

Guenette said it would be a “bit of a guess” to attribute the full parking lots to escalating fare costs.

Ferry fares rose more than four per cent in April, the latest in a series of hikes that have seen ticket prices jump more than

47 per cent over the past nine years on major routes, and 80 per cent on minor ones.

A family of four would pay more than $190 for a round trip with a vehicle on the ferry, with the vehicle accounting for about $100 of that amount.

Fares are set to rise as much as 12.5 per cent more over the next three years.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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