British Columbians and travellers are using BC Ferries now more than ever, after a major dip in ridership during the pandemic, according to BC Ferries’ statistics.
Traffic levels are close to pre-pandemic levels, officials said in a press conference Thursday.
“In the first three months (of this fiscal year), passenger and vehicle traffic increased 74 per cent and 42 per cent respectively, compared to the same period in the prior year,” BC Ferries staff said, in a release.
“This quarter marked the highest ever first quarter for vehicle traffic.”
When compared to the same period in fiscal 2020, a pre-COVID period, vehicle traffic is 3.8 per cent higher while passenger traffic is 6.3 per cent lower.
It is no secret staffing has been a huge issue for BC Ferries of late.
However the company said it’s something it’s actively working on.
The reasons given were nothing new, pandemic-related issues, including burnout, and a pre-existing shortage of marine workers.
“We hired more than 800 new workers before the summer,” said Jill Sharland, BC Ferries’ interim president and chief executive officer.
“That’s probably the most we’ve ever hired at any point in time and that’s where our focus is going to be going forward, working on our employee recognition and training to keep our existing employees.”
In the first three months of this fiscal year, BC Ferries said it cancelled less than one per cent of scheduled round trips, due to crewing shortages.
However, many lament issues with long wait times on routes such as the Hornby Island ferry route.
“Hornby and Denman are what we call our hot spots during the summertime,” said Sharland.
“We have absolutely prioritized adding capacity to those routes. In the immediate short term, we are looking at what we can do for next summer.”
Many people living on different islands called into the meeting to express frustration with cancellations and a lack of service on some routes.
Sharland said she’s looking into the idea of creating a priority booking system for residents.
A look at the government’s relationship with BC Ferries
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