Ferry routes to Vancouver Island could soon run from the SeaBus terminal at Waterfront Station in downtown Vancouver, but they will not be operated by TransLink.
The public transit authority has been seeking interest from private passenger-only ferry and water taxi operators to launch new services from the SeaBus terminal to Victoria, Nanaimo, and the Sunshine Coast.
TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews told Daily Hive the private operators would pay for the required terminal renovations to accommodate the new route operations. The new operators would use the unused outside berth of the terminal.
This is in addition to the ongoing $12.5-million project that will retrofit the roof and exterior cladding of both SeaBus terminals at Waterfront and Lonsdale Quay.
“The private ferry and water taxi services will be supplemental to, and are not meant to replace, BC Ferries services,” she said. “These services are meant to offer users flexible and vehicle-free travel options.”
Such operations could increase TransLink’s revenues through the sale of transit tickets to passengers using the services. Passengers of the private ferry services will be required to pass through TransLink’s fare paid zone and carry valid proof of fare.
Drews was unable to comment on the responses it received from interested parties.
However, Island Ferries Services says it is keen on securing a long-term lease at the TransLink-owned berth for its new high-speed catamaran service between downtown Vancouver and downtown Nanaimo.
An agreement to lease space for a terminal in Nanaimo was secured in August, which means the downtown terminal is currently the only missing major component to the operations.
“We are very excited about the SeaBus opportunity,” said Dave Marshall, the Director of Operations for Island Ferries. “We are providing a service that is entirely consistent with TransLink’s public transit mandate, leverages the quite considerable investment that has been made in transit infrastructure in Metro Vancouver, and essentially extends those connections to Nanaimo.”
With quick connections to SkyTrain’s Expo and Canada lines, bus routes, the West Coast Express commuter rail, and SeaBus, the ferry service will add to tourism and provide Island commuters with a new option of getting to work.
Island Ferries has already spent $40 million on a construction order in Singapore for two new catamaran ferries, which will arrive in BC in the spring. Each vessel will have a capacity for 376 passengers and maximum speed of 40 knots (75 kms/hr), allowing a one-way trip to be conducted in just 68 minutes.
Fares are expected to start at just $25.o0, and if an agreement can be made with TransLink soon the service could launch in the summer of 2018.
In contrast, the BC Ferries crossing time from West Vancouver to Nanaimo is 100 minutes – and that does not even include the driving time to and from Horseshoe Bay.
Island Ferries is just one of three new private ferry services between downtown and Vancouver Island.
Earlier this year, V2V Vacations began an upscale, tourist-oriented service between the berth at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West Building and the Steamship Terminal Building in downtown Victoria. It uses a 254-seat high-speed passenger catamaran.
The route to Victoria will also see another service operated by the Victoria Clipper, but it aims to attract commuters and locals with its more economical pricing. The Clipper aims to launch in spring 2018 with a 570-seat passenger catamaran.