According to BC Ferries executive director of public affairs Deb Marshall, ferry traffic during the Easter long weekend (April 10-13) was down 14 per cent from the first weekend in April, 2020.
The B.C. and Alberta governments issued a joint statement prior to the long weekend, urging people to stay home, due to the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Public outcry ensued, as pictures of full ferry decks were posted on various media platforms, and people expressed disappointment at a perceived disregard to the plea.
An online petition was even created, requesting ferry access be limited to essential services/supplies and Island residents.
Health Minister Adrian Dix issued a statement Monday, April 13, declaring ferry traffic had diminished by 92 per cent over the Easter weekend of 2019.
The relevance of those numbers came into question, due to vast difference in the numbers of available sailings in 2019 compared to 2020.
As of Saturday, April 4, all service on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay (Nanaimo-Vancouver) route has been ceased, and regular sailings on the Tsawwassen-Duke Point (Nanaimo) and Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay (Victoria) routes have been cut by 50 per cent.
Furthermore, the remaining active sailings have had their capacity reduced by 50 per cent, in accordance with the temporary Transport Canada regulations.
“The new temporary Transport Canada regulations say we can carry 50 per cent of the normal maximum passenger license limits,” explained Marshall in an email sent out April 11. “We are following in accordance with these new regulations. For example, a Spirit Class vessel is usually licensed to carry 2,100 passengers and crew, so now the maximum would be 1,050 passengers and crew.”
Black Press reached out to Marshall for travel figures comparing the Easter long weekend to the weekend prior – the first weekend of the new sailing schedule.
“On a system level, passenger traffic was 14 per cent lower this weekend (April 9-12), than the previous weekend (April 3-5) and vehicle traffic was 18 per cent lower,” she said, in an email response.
According to Dix, 14,633 passengers used the Island ferry routes over the course of the 2020 Easter long weekend.
Based on Marshall’s statement, approximately 17,000 ferry passengers used the Island routes the April 3-5 weekend.
Marshall added she does not believe comparing the Easter weekend to the previous weekend is a fair comparison.
“This is not an apple to apples comparison, due to [the] way traffic materialized over Easter (vs a typical weekend) and also significantly higher latent demand over Easter weekend, when compared to its surround weekends.
“This is why we believe Easter to Easter is a better comparison, for measuring customers’ response to health guidelines.”