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Few hitches for holiday travellers

Dec 29 2011

Bustling holiday traffic encountered just a few hiccups this season as thousands of travellers made journeys on boats, planes and highways with relative ease.

B.C. Ferries had typical sailing waits and the Victoria International Airport experienced a brief power outage, but the main arteries to and from Vancouver Island remained open, thanks in large part to warm and clear weather.

Lineups at Swartz Bay began early again Wednesday, with three-sailing waits by 11 a.m. Passengers travelling from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo had a two-sailing wait for the 11:40 a.m. sailing.

Most lineups had disappeared by the afternoon. Officials saw similar patterns on Tuesday.

B.C. Ferries had anticipated an increase in commercial semi-trucks after the closure of the Duke Point terminal near Nanaimo, but their number has dropped on most of the routes to the Island compared with last holiday season. The corporation went as far as offering 50 per cent discounts to semi-trucks to remove heavy vehicle traffic from the Departure Bay terminal in Nanaimo.

“Commercial traffic is down across the board,” said Darin Guenette, spokesman for B.C. Ferries.

The B.C. Trucking Association could not explain the drop. The group’s president, Louise Yako, ruled out the impact of the Duke Point closure. “It’s just that time of year,” she said.

Victoria airport was one of about 89 customers without power Wednesday after a tree took down a power line in Sidney just after

1 a.m. Power was restored at 5:25 a.m.

A flight to Vancouver and another to Seattle were postponed briefly, but the delays were a minor blip in the overall smooth travelling schedule for passengers, Victoria Airport Authority said.

The airport saw about a 15 per cent increase in travellers during the holidays, up from about 4,100 passengers per day and peaking on Dec. 23 at about 4,700. Most of the increase was from additional flights to Calgary with WestJet and to Cancun/Puerto Vallarta with Canjet.

Snowfalls in Ontario did not hamper any flights and a lack of storms on Vancouver Island allowed for smooth travel.

“We were fortunate in that sense,” said Terry Stewart, a director of the authority. “People got to come and go without a glitch this year. We had no issues with parking lots or any of our airlines’ schedules.”

Ferries travelling to the United States saw typical holiday traffic. The Coho, which connects Vancouver Island and Port Angeles, had a few vehicles waiting for second sailings as most boats were full, said Ryan Burles, president of the Black Ball Ferry Line.

“We’ve seen a few more people on foot, but generally speaking this is always a busy time,” he said.

The Victoria Clipper increased its sailings to accommodate more demand for travel between Vancouver Island and Seattle.

An additional sailing each day has been making the cross-border trip since Boxing Day. The extra sailings will last until Jan. 2.

Most passengers are from Seattle, but Clipper Navigation spokeswoman Janis Smith said there were slightly more Canadian passengers heading south.

Overall traffic for December has jumped 10 per cent so far, she said.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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