B.C. Ferries mulls passenger service between Royal Bay in Colwood and Victoria

The idea of a passenger ferry between Colwood’s Royal Bay and Victoria is surfacing again, this time with B.C. Ferries considering the idea.

This concept is in a very early stage and no study has been planned or carried out, Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, said Friday.

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Running a passenger ferry between Colwood and Victoria Harbour or Ogden Point has been talked about in Greater Victoria for many years, but has never become a reality.

“We’ve been talking to a few folks to see if there’s any interest,” including a local developer, Marshall said.

Development plans at Royal Bay include 2,300 homes, with the potential for about 7,000 residents. The project is to include cafés, shops, recreation and parks on what was once a gravel pit.

A decision on whether to go ahead with a study into the idea will likely be made in the first quarter of this year, Marshall said.

“We are always looking at different business opportunities. People approach us all the time.”

This concept has been discussed within B.C. Ferries for about six months, she said. No details are available because of the preliminary nature of the concept.

B.C. Ferries has been approached in the past about running this kind of service, Marshall said.

“The whole idea would be to ease congestion in the area.”

Such a service might help with the Colwood Crawl, the name given to the frequently clogged Trans-Canada Highway lanes between the West Shore and the region’s core.

The West Shore has been growing at a rapid pace. It is experiencing strong population growth and expanded commercial development. Residential construction has been booming in large and small projects as thousands of homes are constructed.

A somewhat similar commuter ferry service has been tried in the past.

Victoria Harbour Ferry introduced what it called its Baseline Ferry Service between Colwood and CFB Esquimalt in 2012, charging $5 for a return trip, to fill a gap left when the military cancelled its free Blue Boat service that, for 55 years, carried 400 to 600 people a day across Esquimalt Harbour.

The Baseline service was cancelled in April 2013 due to poor ridership.

The West Shore Chamber of Commerce championed the idea of a commuter service in June 2013 after a survey of 1,800 respondents found strong support for the idea.

At that time, a study figured that commuters would pay up to $10.44 for a single return ticket and $81 for a monthly pass for a trip of 22 to 24 minutes.

The chamber said another study would be needed to find out how the service could be affected by weather.

The ocean between Colwood and Victoria is relatively open, so ferry riders might experience a rough ride in windy weather.

In 2011, Crown Marine Management Ltd. of Victoria suggested a ferry service that would be part of a marina plan at Royal Bay, then held by a different owner. That proposal did not come to fruition.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

> In Sunday’s Islander, explore B.C. Ferries, with answers to frequently asked questions: Why can’t you stay in your car in an enclosed deck? How are overloads handled? What about those line-jumpers?

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