Driftwood Editorial - Is Ferries listening?

When it comes to critiquing every move made by B.C. Ferry Services Inc., the usual course is to show little mercy.

That hasn’t only been the case since the Coastal Ferry Services Act put an accountability wall between BC Ferries and the public it’s supposed to serve and islanders were subsequently swamped by fare increases. Complaining about ferry service and management is a longstanding Gulf Islands tradition that will likely never die.

Every so often Ferries will trot out the results of a public satisfaction survey and “on-time service” numbers to prove that all is well with the corporation. And people who have travelled on ferries elsewhere in the world will also chime in that our service is top-notch and affordable. We’re certainly open to taking in the official data and alternate views, but regular Gulf Islands users know better, of course.

That’s why it was refreshing to see evidence of Salt Spring residents’ concerns being taken more seriously by BC Ferries when it comes to planning for the Fulford and Vesuvius terminals. At a July 12 open house, Ferries personnel revealed short-term plans to create a separate parking lane for ferry traffic leading into the Fulford Harbour terminal, and to expand the Vesuvius Bay terminal parking area too, with work hopefully beginning in January of 2012. In the long term — starting in 2016 at the earliest — increasing the size of the Fulford terminal through the use of fill is envisioned.

While more property purchases at the terminals would be even better, the plans as announced are logical and welcome first steps that prove Ferries hasn’t just marooned us when it comes to infrastructure matters.

Tuesday’s announcement that customers hurt by BC Ferries’ enforcing of a two-year expiry period on pre-purchased assured-loading tickets is another positive sign from the company’s control tower. Yes, we know BC Ferries was threatened with a class-action lawsuit over its decision to keep some $1.2 million in money it had received for no service provided, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have made a less charitable decision.

Could a new era of public responsiveness be dawning at BC Ferries? It seem unlikely somehow, but it also doesn’t hurt to hope.





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