Colwood and Esquimalt’s mayors are in favour of a possible passenger ferry route between the West Shore, Esquimalt and downtown Victoria.
Both Mayor Rob Martin of Colwood and Barb Desjardins of Esquimalt have said that they hope the province and BC Ferries will continue to study and explore the use of a passenger ferry between Royal Bay, Esquimalt and Ship Point.
With increased traffic congestion in the West Shore headed towards Esquimalt and downtown, both mayors have said that alternate transportation methods are needed to address the issue.
“When you only have a road route — one option — traffic is challenging so we have to look at how else can we traverse,” Desjardins said. “I’m a strong proponent for the rail and water.”
A pre-feasibility study from SNC Lavalin has highlighted that a solution to traffic jams could be a fast-catamaran ferry that will be able to carry about 300 passengers and maintain a speed of 25 knots even when travelling in waves of more than two metres.
The pre-feasibility study is the first step to implementing a ferry service between the municipalities, Martin said. He said the hopes are that a full feasibility study will occur next, but that would require about $1 million in funding from the province.
“We’re really hoping the pre-feasibility study gets rolled into the Southern Vancouver Island Transportation study report that comes out in September,” Martin said. “And hopefully the province sees the value in the ferry and invests in the full feasibility study.”
The report has been sent to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to be considered in its southern Vancouver Island Transportation study.
The SNC Lavalin report also highlights that the ferry service could generate revenue in its first year of operation, bringing in about $170,000 per year. The report recommends BC Ferries charges passengers $5.75 for the service.
The total cost estimate, including a breakwater in Colwood and Esquimalt as well as terminals, is $41,600,000. The total cost including the ferries is $95,600,000.
Desjardins said that while an initial cost is required, it is an investment that could not only ease traffic but bring more activity and business to Esquimalt as well.
“Council is very keen to increase activity, business and residence in Esquimalt as well as services to the community,” Desjardins said. “These are opportunities that can arise if (the ferry) was to occur.”
Martin noted that the number of bicycle racks that will be on the ferry is an exciting idea as well, giving commuters the ability to bike to the ferry and then from the terminal to work.
“It’s a very west coast lifestyle too,” Martin said. “We all love the ocean and the fact that we can actually be using it as a mode of transportation is something that is very appealing.”
BC Ferries says it has not made any decisions yet and is still considering all options but both Martin and Desjardins are hopeful that the idea will continue to be looked at.
Desjardins noted that she believes the community would be very supportive of the passenger ferry as well.
“Anything we can do to reduce the traffic on our streets, reduce parking on side streets… and helping businesses thrive, the community is on side for that,” Desjardins said.