With a record-breaking year of vehicle traffic behind them, BC Ferries is looking toward the future and their near-record breaking amount of overall passengers boarding their vessels.
More than 22 million passengers sailed on BC Ferries ships in fiscal 2018, reaching a 20-year high.
While more than 8.7 million vehicles also made the voyage, it’s the increasing foot passengers BC Ferries has its eye on.
“We almost hit our record number ever of passengers, just not quite. We might hit it this year, we’ll see,” BC Ferries President and CEO Mark Collins said. “Certainly, traffic is approaching historic highs for the ferry system.”
He said the surge in passengers is partly because of the fare freezes, economy and lower fuel prices encouraging more travel, but increasing popularity of ride-hailing apps could also be the cause.
While Uber is not yet offered in Vancouver or Victoria, apps such as Zipcar are named in BC Ferries’ Performance Term Five Submission to the Commissioner, which would begin in 2020. The company anticipates there will be more walk-on passengers than those travelling by vehicle if they’re using ride-sharing apps to and from the terminals, but not taking them onboard.
“We look down the road at trends, development and the economy, technology and things like that to make sure we’re considering everything that could influence our infrastructure decisions. Ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles are two emerging trends which we’re watching very carefully. I can’t say for sure where they’re going to go, but what we can see is one possibility is that people may move more and more over to ride-hailing services and autonomous vehicles and own fewer cars,” Collins said.
“It’s a possibility, then that could have big implications for the ferry system.”
BC Ferries models such scenarios drawing up potential accommodations. In Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen terminals, Collins said that could include more waiting areas with more refreshment services and seating, different check-in systems, and potentially more green space.
“Where do those cars go when they’re dropping people off? Will there need to be smart technology on the terminals to facilitate the movement of driverless vehicles? All of these things have a big impact on our infrastructure, so we spend some time thinking about those possible futures,” Collins said. “There’s always some waiting associated with getting on the ferry because you have to wait for it to dock, walk on board and things like that, so we want to do what we can to make it more pleasant for the travellers.”