EDITORIAL: BC Ferries’ reservation system needs an overhaul

With the long weekend approaching, you can be sure getting on or off the Island is bound to be a nightmare

With the long weekend approaching, there’s one thing Saanich residents can be sure of: getting on or off the Island is bound to be a nightmare. And it’s time for BC Ferries to plug the leaks in its reservation system.

Vancouver Island residents can be sure on a long weekend they will either have to pay extra for a reservation to ensure they make it onto 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 often delays are considerably longer for those con the mainland and 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. But the BC Ferries’ website indicates that evening sailings can already be almost fully booked by first thing in the morning.

The reservation system as it stands is little more than a cash grab: for a standard vehicle, reservations range from $10 for an early booking (more than seven days) to $21 for same-day reservations.

But even that is no guarantee, as weekend reservations can often be fully booked by the Friday morning. Travellers are left to endure a two- or three-sailing wait to come to the Island on some routes – and you can forget it if you wanted to hit the Gulf Islands for a spur-of-the-moment visit.

At what point does this become a turnoff for tourists, who would rather avoid coming to the Island entirely than being stuck waiting in their vehicles for hours?

Airlines have fully booked flights, trains have fully booked routes around the country. There are ferry systems such as the Clipper 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.

– Parksville Qualicum Beach News