After an overwhelming Friday for B.C. Ferries, Monday was just busy

Easter Monday travellers faced long lines at major ferry terminals on Vancouver Island, but the situation was much less chaotic than the Good Friday traffic leaving the Lower Mainland.

B.C. Ferries warned of “higher than normal” traffic volumes on major routes Monday as the Easter long weekend wrapped up.

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At Swartz Bay terminal, there was a two-sailing wait for vehicles heading to Tsawwassen for much of the day, though the wait eased as evening approached. There was also a two-sailing wait for much of the afternoon from Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay and Duke Point to Tsawwassen.

“We’re focused on doing whatever we can to get our travellers where they need to go,” B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Astrid Braunschmidt said. “Typically, this is one of our most popular travel weekends of the year, so we did anticipate we’d see a lot of traffic.”

Scott and Stacey Burwood, travelling with their rescue dog Poncho in the back seat, were at Swartz Bay during a lull in traffic. They arrived just before 3 p.m. and were surprised to hear they might make the 4 p.m. sailing. The Langley couple spent the Easter weekend visiting family in Port Alberni and bypassed Duke Point terminal because they were told there would be multiple sailing waits.

They made the same long detour on Thursday night. They arrived at Tsawwassen terminal at 4 p.m. and were told they might not make the 10:45 p.m. sailing to Duke Point. They got on an 8 p.m. ferry to Swartz Bay instead.

“It was pretty chaotic Thursday night,” said Scott Burwood. The situation got even worse at Tsawwassen terminal on Good Friday, where passengers faced major delays and confusion.

There was a two-sailing wait for walk-on passengers and up to a four-sailing wait for vehicle traffic. Some passengers complained that they missed reservations because traffic was backed up several kilometres down the highway, while other drivers jumped the queue to try to make their chosen sailings.

“We’ll be reviewing how this weekend went for us on an operational level and looking at ways to improve the customer experience going forward,” said Braunschmidt. Anyone who missed their reservation due to long lineups is advised to contact B.C. Ferries’ customer-care department, she said.

B.C. Ferries scheduled 89 extra sailings for the long weekend, including 70 on the Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen run and 11 on the Vancouver-Nanaimo route. Additional staff was on duty, including more traffic control personnel.

Heather and Dirk Hollman heeded B.C. Ferries’ advice and booked a reservation both for the sailing out of Tsawwassen and leaving Swartz Bay.

Heavy traffic at Tsawwassen meant they didn’t get to the toll booth until 15 minutes before the sailing but they were still able to make the reservation.

“This is super mellow,” Dirk Hollman said of the Easter Monday traffic.

Peter Nieforth and Olivia Jiang, who were heading back to West Vancouver after a romantic getaway in Victoria, were strategic in their arrival at the Swartz Bay terminal, aiming to travel when the higher-capacity Spirit-class vessels were running.

“This was nothing,” Nieforth said of the traffic at Swartz Bay. “We missed a bit of that early rush [Monday morning].”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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