Ogden Point marine shuttle designed to ease road woes

A request for proposals is out for a new marine shuttle service to help carry thousands of cruise ship passengers between Ogden Point and downtown Victoria this year.

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is hoping to hire a marine shuttle as a supplementary service to the existing bus shuttle.

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Every year, about 200 ship visits are logged at Ogden Point in James Bay as part of the popular Alaska cruise route. About 650,000 passengers and crew are onboard those vessels, which mainly arrive and depart on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

About 95,000 passengers and crew rode the bus shuttle in 2013, the harbour authority said.

When passengers and crew disembark at Ogden Point, they have a choice of shuttle buses, other vehicles heading to attractions, pedi-cabs, taxis, limousines and horse-drawn carriages.

Some just walk downtown.

“As the marine shuttle is a pilot project as part of a multi-modal shuttle system, we will test it out with single ship days and late calls. If it is successful in the early part of the season, we will continue to service those calls,” said harbour authority spokeswoman Rebecca Penz. “At this time, we are planning on using the floats in front of the Steamship Terminal for the downtown stop.”

It’s the buses that annoy members of the James Bay community, many of whom object to the noise, emissions and increased traffic on the roads. The James Bay Neighbourhood Association president said last month that they do not want any buses.

The neighbourhood also shot down a proposal by a private firm last month to bring an overhead gondola system to transport cruise passengers from the terminal to downtown.

The marine shuttle is part of the harbour authority's strategy to appease the neighbourhood, along with using higher-volume, double-decker buses. The shuttle request for proposals was issued Tuesday.

Ogden Point is historically an industrial area and has seen a wide range of uses, including as a port for transporting timber and a site for a fish-processing plant.

Today, the cruise ship industry generates about $96 million for the local economy in direct and indirect spending and creates almost 700 jobs annually, according to a consultant’s report for the harbour authority released last month.

As the neighbourhood association and harbour authority square off, the next cruise season is scheduled to start May 1 when the Zaandam arrives. A total of 210 ship calls are expected, ending Oct. 6, when the Zaandam pulls in again.

The marine shuttle will take about 30 minutes to travel between Ogden Point and downtown, given speed limits in the Inner Harbour, the request for proposals said. Fisherman’s Wharf may be added as a stop.

Marine shuttle tickets will be distributed by the harbour authority.

The closing date to submit a proposal is Jan. 24.

Information required in an application includes details on vessels, engine types and fuel types, exhaust emissions, noise levels and any modification to reduce noise and emissions. The harbour authority also wants to know how any vessel breakdown would be handled.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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