It’s time for BC Ferries to come clean about its ‘reservation’ system.
Residents on Vancouver Island can guarantee on a long weekend they will either have to pay extra for a reservation to ensure they make it on the ferry, or arrive at the ferry terminal hours ahead of time in order to drive onto a vessel. This applies in both directions, but more and more often if you get caught on the mainland and are trying to travel onto the Island.
If you work off-Island and want to come home for the weekend, you’re practically held hostage: a reservation is your only guarantee.
Try finding a number for how many reservations there are per sailing, and you’ll be disappointed. There’s no set number. A good indicator, though: on Thursday, Aug. 3, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the 5:45 p.m. ferry was already 90 per cent booked, according to BC Ferries’ website.
The reservation system as it stands is little more than a cash grab: for a standard vehicle, reservations range from $10 for early booking (more than seven days) to $21 for same-day reservations. This past weekend, all reservations coming to the Island from Tsawwassen to Duke Point, for example, were full by Friday morning.
There was also a two- to three-sailing wait to come to the Island on some routes—and forget it if you wanted to hit the Gulf Islands for a spur-of-the-moment visit.
At what point does this become a turn-off for tourists, who would rather avoid coming to the Island entirely, than wait?
Airlines have fully booked flights, trains have fully booked routes around the country. There are ferry systems such as the Clipper and to some extent the Coho ferry from Washington State to Vancouver Island that are reservation only, and ferries on the east coast of Canada operate that way too.
Perhaps if BC Ferries went to a booking system only for the main routes to and from Vancouver Island, they would be better able to control their finances—and customers; frustrations might not soar so high.
— Alberni Valley News