Colwood council’s hot idea of a passenger ferry between Royal Bay and downtown Victoria is an intriguing one, and it should be given serious consideration. Anything that would ease the infamous Colwood Crawl could be good for the entire region.
The idea, which was unanimously approved by council this week, would see the construction of a breakwater, a terminal at Royal Bay, the purchase of vessels, the hiring of staff and more. It would be an expensive proposition — but any project that would ease traffic flow would cost a lot of money.
With the population growth throughout the capital region, especially in the West Shore, something needs to be done. The commuter crunch is not going to get easier, and we need fresh ideas to deal with it.
In simple terms, people can be moved with private vehicles, with buses, with light rail transit, or by boat. All ideas should be considered.
“Studies have already indicated that a ferry from Royal Beach in Colwood to downtown Victoria will remove 1,000 cars a day from traffic and will accommodate close to one million passenger rides per year,” Colwood Mayor Rob Martin says.
The proposed ferry is already being considered as part of the ongoing South Island Transportation Plan, aimed at moving people more efficiently via all travel modes in an area extending north to Duncan and west to Sooke.
The study, which began in April and is expected to be completed next year, also includes looking at the feasibility of commuter rail along the E&N corridor.
Colwood is waiting for $1 million from the plan for a feasibility study of the ferry idea.
That study would, presumably, weigh other traffic issues a ferry might cause.
Rather than joining the convoy along the Trans-Canada Highway, 1,000 cars a day would be heading to and from Royal Bay. That would have an impact on roads and traffic flows in that area.
Parking lots would also be needed.
There’s also the question of where to put related infrastructure. Martin notes that the Colwood waterfront has undeveloped land which would work for a terminal. If the ferry idea has merit, that land has to be set aside now, rather than after it has been developed for another purpose.
And let’s not forget to look at another alternative, too. Remember that the Royal Canadian Navy ran the free Blue Boat service for 55 years, until 2013, between Colwood and CFB Esquimalt. It had a capacity of about 600 people a day.
The navy discontinued that run not because it wasn’t valuable, but because paying for such transport was not in the navy’s mandate.
Given its relatively short distance, bringing back the Blue Boat might make more sense (and would certainly be cheaper to subsidize) than the longer commute from Royal Bay to downtown.
Every idea should be considered.