The Seaspan Reliant, shown at recently expanded Duke Point terminal. Seaspan operates seven ferries from four terminals on the B.C. Coast and supplies more than 50 per cent of all cargo to Vancouver Island. (Chris Bush/Black Press)

Ferry terminals to see improvements

Seaspan expanding, Swartz Bay set for overhaul

Seaspan Ferries Corporation wants to move ahead with an expansion of its commercial terminal, located right next to BC Ferries’ Swartz Bay passenger terminal.

No application has been submitted to the District of North Saanich yet, according to staff, but they have confirmed preliminary discussions with Seaspan.

The inter-modal facility currently moves freight trailers, trucks and other vehicles between Victoria and Vancouver while, at the same time, providing a storage compound for Piers Island residents who park their vehicles while they sail to the small island by the North Saanich coast.

The move comes on the heels of community consultations which, in turn, have led to some of the design features of the proposed expansion, including improved lighting, a realignment of Barnacle Road and expanded parking for Piers Island residents and visitors. But while the potential Seaspan expansion and improvements are good news for those involved in freight traffic, the questions that seem to be more important for travellers center on the need for improved facilities at the BC Ferries Swartz Bay Facility.

“Through a terminal development planning process, BC Ferries is analyzing how Swartz Bay terminal needs to change in order to effectively meet the needs of customers, employees and suppliers over the upcoming 20 years and beyond,” said Darin Guenette, Manager of Public Affairs for BC Ferries.

“BC Ferries has seen traffic demand for all three routes serviced out of Swartz Bay increase notably over the past three years or so, but we are in a situation there in which we have to make any future improvements within the existing footprint of land. There simply isn’t any room for expansion.”

With that in mind, the corporation has been involved in a three-phase public engagement process designed to gather community input that will help to shape future plans at the Swartz Bay location.

The first phase involved pop-up events at the terminal that engaged with more than 1,000 travellers as well as online surveys and stakeholder and employee workshops.

The second stage, involved the translation of those inputs into design concepts that are now available on-line for comment at bcferries.com.

The site plan concepts include a large forecourt at the foot passenger building, an improved foot passenger building with improved waiting areas, a new concession at the Lands End waterfront, a new park at the waterfront and a waterfront boardwalk at the site.

“We have undertaken initial design concepts for various aspects of the terminal, including foot passenger ticketing and waiting areas, administration and warehouse needs, customer retail and food amenities, baggage handling areas, green spaces/family play areas/pet areas, and more,” said Guenette.

“It’s really quite exciting.”

With these concepts, in place, BC Ferries has gone on to conduct employee, customer and stakeholder engagement sessions to gather feedback on aspects important to these groups as well as soliciting input in an online survey.

But while BC Ferries said that the entire process is designed to better meet the community’s needs, the land-locked status of the terminal facility places limitations that will not be addressed through improved amenities and may provide little consolation for travellers facing a three sailing wait on a busy holiday weekend.

“The two main methods of addressing increasing demand are either increasing the frequency of sailings on a given route or by providing a vessel with greater capacity, and BC Ferries is constantly analysing traffic statistics and future forecasts in an effort to determine whether changes are required,” explained Guenette.

“Some of the vessel operating on Swartz Bay routes are due to be replaced by larger vessels within the next two to five years, which will provide more capacity to meet growing traffic demand.”

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