EDITORIAL: West Shore ferry service would allow commuters to leave gridlock in their wake

A new study promises new hope for those stranded each morning on the Colwood Crawl.

A pre-feasibility study from SNC Lavalin weighs the costs and benefits of a new high-speed passenger-only ferry service between the West Shore and downtown Victoria. The study looks at three potential BC Ferries terminals at Royal Bay, Esquimalt and Ship Point at a cost of $41 million. That price drops to $31 million without the stop in Esquimalt, which is found to have a poor business case for a terminal. The total cost for the project including the ferries is $95,600,000. Labour costs are expected to come in at about $7 million a year.

READ MORE: BC Ferries considers passenger only ferry between West Shore and Victoria

Proposed prices for the service between West Shore to the Inner Harbour range anywhere from $2.50 to $5.75 for the half-hour trip that could accommodate 294 passengers. That is a small price to pay for many of those left fuming for over an hour as they make their daily commute from the West Shore into downtown Victoria.

And the attraction of leaving the car behind is sure to make a dent in the number of cars on Victoria roads. The study – which looks at a fast-catamaran that can travel at speeds of 25 knots even in high seas – anticipates 3,100 passengers in its first year, growing to 4,000 by 2038.

The mayors of Colwood and Esquimalt are already on board with the plan, and the provincial government needs to take the proposal seriously. To move ahead, a full feasibility study would be needed, which requires about $1 million in provincial funding.

READ MORE: Colwood, Esquimalt mayors support potential passenger commuter ferry

The province is expected to wrap up work on the McKenzie interchange in the fall. That project carried a pricetag of $85 million,which coincidentally represents the estimated total cost of the ferry service without an Esquimalt terminal. And a valid argument could be made that the passenger ferry could have an equal impact on traffic congestion.

Governments at all levels must explore all options to get more cars off the roads in our major centres. There is no doubt the public demand is there, with plenty of commuters more than ready to leave the rush-hour gridlock in their wake.

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