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New ferry could link West Shore with Victoria

Attention Colwood Crawlers: a new, stress-free passage into and out of downtown Victoria could be sailing your way soon — if you demand it.
While a ferry from the West Shore to Victoria would look a lot bigger that this one, a Royal Roads' study is going to investigate how sea transport could help reduce the Colwood Crawl.

Attention Colwood Crawlers: a new, stress-free passage into and out of downtown Victoria could be sailing your way soon — but only if you demand it.

Over the next few months, business students in Royal Roads MBA program will partner up with the WestShore Chamber of Commerce and Black Ball Ferry Line to look at the complexities and possibilities of running a commuter passenger ferry from Royal Bay to the Inner Harbour, and they’ll be basing much of their recommendations on residents’ input.

“This is not a new idea — in fact, it’s been around for about 100 years if you look at old newspaper clippings, but it’s all about timing,” says Dan Spinner, CEO of WestShore Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve seen an extraordinary population growth in the area, and the question becomes, how do we handle that?”

The West Shore currently hosts about 70,000 people, which Spinner says is expected to double in the next decade. A current estimated 25,000 vehicles make the trip to and from Victoria every day, with a 45-minute travel time during busy periods with no road accidents. In 10 years, Spinner says that time will adjust to approximately 1.5 hours. While the region has been discussing the possibility of light rail transit, Spinner says that’s still far in the future and a ferry could be a more immediate fix.

“This really isn’t an argument of either or, it’s an argument for all: yes, we still need light rail transit, we still rely on our cars, and we need to use our coastal resources,” he says.

The study is being conducted as part of a final project for students in the MBA faculty of management, and is scheduled for completion by the end of 2012. Students will be looking at possible effects, including commuter sentiment and interest, circumstances in which consumers would choose a ferry, cost, feasibility, reduction of commuter traffic and carbon emissions, and the effect of a possible increase of tourism to the West Shore.

Black Ball Ferry Line, which runs the Coho Ferry from Victoria’s harbour to Port Angeles, Wash., could seem an interesting choice in terms of partnership for the Island project, yet Black Ball president Ryan Burles resides in the West Shore, and first approached Spinner with this proposed use of the 500-acre gravel pit at Royal Bay.

“This isn’t going to happen tomorrow, obviously, but we’d like to play a part in developing the area in a way that makes sense for the community,” says Burles. “Living in the West Shore, I can see the definite pressure as things keep growing, and I think we have untapped resources at our fingers there. But we need bus systems and easy access to ferry routes to make it a real option for commuters.”

Burles estimates a trip by ferry could take 30 minutes from shore to shore, but he points out it’s 30 minutes passengers can read, do homework or talk to colleagues on their phones — all difficult procedures when driving. Passenger cost and ferry frequency is still being examined. M