If all goes according to plan, Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver residents will soon be able to take a high-speed ferry from Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver.
The privately operated and funded project was first revealed last year and has recently passed a major hurdle with the City of Nanaimo approving the lease contract for a terminal the ferry service will use.
The agreement will have Island Ferries pay $52,000 annually over a 20 year period for the central Nanaimo location near the BC Ferries terminal.
“This agreement is a key milestone in establishing a dependable, customer-focused, passenger-only fast ferry service between downtown Nanaimo and downtown Vancouver. It will provide Island Ferries with a site from which to base our operations,” said Island Ferries president Stewart Vinnels.
“It also allows us to focus our efforts solely on the last critical element – securing sufficient funding to ensure long-term success. We look forward to starting service early in 2015.”
However, arrangements still need to be finalized with TransLink for a terminal in downtown Vancouver. The dock will likely be located near Canada Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre area.
The ferry service could begin in late-March 2015, whisking passengers across the Strait of Georgia and Burrard Inlet in 68 minutes for fares between $24 to $31. High-speed ferries can typically travel at speeds up to 60 kilometres per hour.
In comparison, a one-way adult fare on BC Ferries’ West Vancouver Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo Departure Bay route costs $16.25 and takes 100 minutes from end to end.
Island Ferries’ project has been five years in the making and comes in the shadow of four failed passenger-only ferry services between Vancouver and Nanaimo since the 1980s.
This proposed service comes nearly a decade after Harbour Lynx, a high-speed catamaran from downtown Vancouver to Nanaimo, closed its service and filed for bankruptcy. The service went under after its single ferry encountered engine problems that were beyond the company’s financial capacity to remediate.
Ridership was also an issue for Harbour Lynx, although proponents believe it will be different tims time. Much has changed since then with greater densification in the downtown core, a larger workforce and improved transit services like the SkyTrain Canada Line are within close walking proximity to the future ferry terminal to Nanaimo.
Island Ferries’ vessels will be similar to the size of Harbour Lynx’s 40-metre long, 300 passenger capacity catamaran.
Featured Image: Stephen Rees