Smooth sailing at BC Ferries over the Labour Day long weekend has shocked a number of passengers travelling between Vancouver Island and the mainland.
Many lanes were empty at the Swartz Bay terminal Monday afternoon, and some vehicles arriving last minute for the noon sailing were seen driving straight onto the vessel.
Footage sent to CHEK News by a viewer on the 11 a.m. sailing from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay showed empty space on one of the vehicle decks.
Some travellers told CHEK News it was shocking to see, especially on the long weekend.
“It’s actually surprising to see that it’s not busier than we thought it would be,” Danielle Riddle said.
Riddle and her family made a reservation ahead of time, thinking it would be very busy heading back to Vancouver.
“To see there was 40 per cent availability when we drove down here, I was shocked. I really thought it was going to be sailing waits,” she added.
Lerrin Dunn was on his way back to Vancouver Monday afternoon after dropping his daughter off at the University of Victoria.
He said he originally made a reservation for the 2 p.m. sailing and arrived at the terminal early just in case, but with the reduced traffic, he would be making the 1 p.m. sailing.
Dunn said he was a little shocked this happened “considering all the stuff we have seen in the news lately.”
One passenger told CHEK News she was shocked at how few cars were in line, but said this also makes sense given the troubles the ferries saw in the early summer months.
“I think the ferries might have scared people off,” Elizabeth Manville said.
“At the beginning of summer, it was mayhem and there were lots of ferries breaking down. I think a lot of people are thinking no, we are not going to take the ferries, we are going to take a different method or we will go a different method or a different time.”
According to BC Ferries, the shorter lineups are typical for the Labour Day long weekend.
Deborah Marshall, executive director of Public Affairs Strategy and Community Engagement, said this long weekend is their fourth busiest travel weekend.
“Our traffic stats so far are showing traffic is about average for the Labour Day long weekend. It’s not quite as busy as we would normally see on the Canada Day long weekend or BC Day long weekend,” Marshall said.
On Sunday, 15,574 vehicles and 51,0756 passengers travelled on the three major routes between Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island.
Marshall said a majority of travellers over the weekend booked reservations, which helped the flow of traffic.
“We also have hourly service here between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, so that certainly helps smooth out traffic,” she added.
In Nanaimo, the Coastal Renaissance is still out of commission and it’s unlikely it will be back in the Tsawwassen-Duke Point route before mid-October.
Marshall said because there was notice this vessel wouldn’t be running, BC Ferries was able to move some reservations around and notify customers so it didn’t cause too many issues.
“Right now we have the Queen of Alberni sailing in its place,” she explained. “We do have one fewer vessel on the run, but lots of customers have made bookings and are making plans in advance.”
Those with and without reservations are also encouraged to arrive early to ensure they make their sailing.