Monday, March 04, 2013

Plying BC's watery highways

It seems I've been doing a lot of travelling lately -- especially on BC's watery highways. Last weekend's trip to Powell River meant four ferry rides, two each way. And this week saw just about as many, though these trips were to different destinations, and on different days.

There's been plenty of rumbling and grumbling since the ferries were privatized (or at least semi-privatized, depending who you talk to) a few years back. The biggest complaints have focused on the rate increases, especially as these have been coupled with cutbacks to service.

Among rumours flying recently has been one suggesting that the route between Comox (on Vancouver Island) and Powell River might be cut. This would see passengers from Powell River needing to take three ferries (and driving over 100 km along the Sunshine Coast), then driving another 100 km once they got to Vancouver Island (at Nanaimo) just so they could get across a relatively short span of water to Comox. The current ferry ride takes an hour and twenty minutes. The impossible-sounding 'new' route would take a full day.

This kind of thinking makes me crazy. And I'm sure the people of Powell River and Comox (and the rest of the upper Island) aren't nuts about the idea either.

There's apparently a survey of ferry services in the works, one we should be seeing a report on pretty soon. My best suggestion for raising more funds for our highways is to toll the folks who use the fabulously-expensive-to-build Sea to Sky Highway, the one that gets skiers from Vancouver to their mountain chalets. But I suppose that's another story -- and likely just another pocket we taxpayers get to keep filled.

I've complained in the past that the boats don't appear as well maintained as I remember them being while they were government-run (as the rest of our highways still sort of are). But rust aside (and yes, it's everywhere once you're out on the decks, away from the glitz of the lounges and shops), staff on the ferries remain friendly and welcoming.

In fact, on last week's return trip from Nanaimo, two of the crew members remembered me from when I'd gone over earlier in the day. And no, I didn't have purple feathers sticking out of my head. I was just me.

As with just about everything in this world, the bottom line can't always be money. The part that should matter more when decisions get made is what the effects will be on people. As Maude of Harold and Maude once said on the subject of people, "Well, they're my species." Mine too.

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