Since COVID-19 restrictions were lifted weeks ago, it’s been getting increasingly tough for Stephanie Parsons, the owner of Island Designated Drivers Ltd., to run her business.
Parsons transports cars between the Island and the Mainland to car dealerships and relies on BC Ferries to do that, but as more and more tourists travel by boat, there’s less space onboard for her vehicles.
“The wait times on long weekends like this Friday [are] probably four to six hours,” she said, adding that she’s been contemplating shutting down her business during long weekends due to the unbearably long wait times.
Parsons also said booking a reservation isn’t an option.
“We don’t know from day to day what our schedules are going to be like. We have no idea what time we’re going to get to the ferries and we’re having issues getting on the ferries,” she explained.
With more people booking in advance, Parsons’ staff are left behind frustrated spending hours waiting for their turn.
“Summertime is always popular for BC Ferries and we’re coming up to the long weekend. A lot of the reservation space has been fully subscribed. People book well in advance for the long weekend as they make their travel plans,” said Deborah Marshall, executive director of public affairs for BC Ferries.
It’s a luxury that Parsons doesn’t have.
She wants small businesses like hers to be prioritized, especially since her business spends nearly $50,000 a month travelling by ferry.
“We mean nothing. We’re just like anybody else [but nobody] else contributes to the ferry revenue the way we do all year round,” she said.
BC Ferries said the percentage of available deck space for reservations varies from 45 per cent to 75 per cent depending on the sailing and/or vessel with a charge of $17.
“Sometimes we do have sailing waits at peak periods and of course summertime is a peak period for BC Ferries,” said Marshall. “If a customer chooses not to make a reservation, they might want to travel in off-peak periods.”
Parsons said the cost isn’t the issue, rather she can’t predict the timing of when cars will be delivered by and given the time-sensitive nature of her work, it isn’t ideal to travel during off-peak times.
She wants a viable solution for her business — a way to travel on the ferry last minute, especially as more travel restrictions get lifted in the coming weeks.