Colwood-Victoria ferry idea still making waves

The idea of running a passenger ferry from Royal Bay to downtown Victoria continues to pick up steam.

Members of the Capital Regional District’s transportation committee agreed Wednesday that the concept merits a closer look and should move up on the priority list.

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If the full CRD board agrees next month, the district would ask the province to conduct a feasibility study to see whether a commuter ferry service might be one solution to traffic congestion in the region.

Colwood Mayor Rob Martin said the idea has a lot of things going for it.

“It’s shifting people out of single vehicles and figuring out how do we encourage people to move around our region in different ways,” he said. “The ferry feeds into that concept of living on an island, utilizing our waterways and having a different stress-free transit movement.

“To think about jumping on a ferry for 10 to 15 minutes, landing in downtown Victoria, doing your workday and then, at the end of the day, you get to spend 15 minutes on the water returning home — I think, from a quality of life standpoint, it’s just tremendous.”

As well, a ferry would ease the pressure on roads and highways that currently carry all the commuters, he said.

“We have to understand that we cannot build roads forever, especially here on an island. We’re running out of land,” he said. “So if we’re going to continue to see population growth and we understand what our traffic issues are, this is one of the solutions.”

CRD staff had listed the West Shore passenger ferry as a long-term goal, meaning it could be years before the district even pushed for a feasibility study and many more years before a vessel set sail, Martin said.

So he was relieved that a majority of his colleagues on the transportation committee agreed to move it up the list. He’s hoping the full board will do the same.

“If it doesn’t, it basically stops the process from moving forward, and that would be a real shame,” he said. The committee also gave higher priority to advocating that the province “maintain/upgrade” the E&N Rail corridor.

View Royal Mayor David Screech, who chairs the transportation committee, disagreed with the decision. He worries that the ferry and rail projects will overshadow more pressing issues identified by CRD staff and the community, including asking the province to accelerate the RapidBus program and improve transit service in rural areas.

“[Staff] were recommending that the rail and the ferry remain long-term priorities and goals, and not that we take immediate action on those,” he said. “I support the ferry and I support the rail, but we have to be realistic when we’re going with ‘asks’ to a higher level of government. I think we’re just diluting our message, frankly, and I was just sad to see that happen quite so quickly.”

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