BC Ferries considers route changes for Gulf Islands

BC Ferries is currently in the process of updating its sailing routes to and from the Southern Gulf Islands as additional ferries are added to the company's fleet.

BC Ferries is replacing an existing ferry that services the Southern Gulf Islands with a new Salish-class vessel, which is larger than the current Mayne Queen ferry.

Besides increasing capacity, the company says it is looking to update its schedules for the region based on feedback from the community as the new ferry enters service.

Between Feb. 16 and March 16, BC Ferries reviewed the input of more than 2,500 people who provided feedback on possible route changes.

While each response was unique, BC Ferries says the most common themes included increasing travel options to Southern Gulf Islands from Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay – mostly for day trips, tourism, commuter needs, and part-time residential needs.

Out of the thousands of respondents, nearly 60 per cent identified themselves as full-time residents of a Southern Gulf Island, while roughly 40 per cent were either part-time residents or visitors, according to BC Ferries.

"We appreciate the input we received from the communities as it is very important to hear from those who rely on our service," said Brian Anderson, BC Ferries vice president of strategy and community engagement in a release Wednesday.

"The Southern Gulf Islands is our most complex scheduling region, and we will continue to work closely with our Ferry Advisory Committees and Southern Gulf Island communities to explore how best to meet the needs of all five islands and many different user groups," he said.

BC Ferries estimates that it will have its updated ferry schedules completed by the end of 2021.