Editorial: Commuting by ferry

As Greater Victoria strives to solve its traffic congestion, boats are once again being tossed into the mix. A quick look at a map suggests that at least some of those commuters fretting their way through the Colwood Crawl could take a boat from Colwood to Esquimalt or the Inner Harbour. The question is: If you build it, will they come?

A study for B.C. Ferries suggests a passenger ferry could work. Colwood Mayor Rob Martin suggests it could take 1,000 cars a day off our clogged highways.

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The study envisions several scenarios, including five diesel ferries offering service every 20 minutes between Royal Bay and Ship Point at a cost of $2.50 per person. Another route could go from Royal Bay to Esquimalt, although at the moment, demand is too low.

Unlike with roads, the ocean offers most of the infrastructure for free. However, the plan would still require almost $100 million — $54 million for five ferries and $41.6 million for terminals at Royal Bay, Esquimalt and Ship Point.

And operations would cost money. The report estimates that five ships on two routes would create losses of $8 million a year. Someone has to foot that bill.

Previous nautical commuter services have died. The navy ran its free Blue Boat for 55 years, carrying 400 to 600 people a day to CFB Esquimalt, but it eventually shut down. A private service started in 2012, offering a $5 return trip, but lasted only until 2013.

Passenger ferries seem like a good solution, but they need a realistic business plan and consistent ridership to succeed.

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