Monday, March 12, 2012

The loss of the Blue Boat

Picture from TC article
Until about five years ago I had no idea about the Blue Boat service provided by the Canadian military for commuters crossing from Colwood to the Esquimalt naval base.   The Blue Boats have provided service for about 400 people per day but it is now scheduled to be cancelled at the end of April.   Apparently they were never intended to be the commuter service it has turned into but moves 15,000 people a month in YFB 316 or YFB 318, 57 year old wooden boats.

Friends on the Westshore told me they could tell on their commute into town if the Blue Boat was not running on a given day, their was a noticeable increase in traffic.   Losing it is not going to improve commuting from the Westshore.

It might be something that BC Transit should consider taking over.    For the Royal Canadian Navy there would be a benefit in someone else running it.   If there were a direct subsidy of the service from the RCN, it becomes a win for everyone.  It is not clear to me what the total ridership is, I hear 400 people a day, I hear 15,000 a month which is more like 650 to 700 people a day.   Whatever it is, it is in the range of 15 average to heavy bus loads of people per day.

If it was clearly and easily available to more of the public, there could be a higher demand for the service.   At 400 round trips a day, this is roughly a daily income of about $1200.    Daily staffing costs of the boat?   If I were to take a stab at it, I suspect about $1200 a day is what the staff costs are.   The fuel costs of the boat are something I can not even begin to guess at, the same with the operational costs of the boat, but on the surface of it, I think it may be within the range of reasonable subsidy for BC Transit to take on.

If one could increase the traffic, I do think it becomes reasonable for BC Transit to take on.

This then leads me to wonder if you could add water based transit in the whole region.

The Gorge from Tillicum bridge to downtown is about 3.5 km or so.   If one were to integrate the Victoria Harbour Ferries into the transit system, and maybe use faster boats, there would be many locations that would be better served by transit.    Higher volumes would also reduce the costs of operation per passenger.   Ideally I would contract with Victoria Habour Ferries to offer the service.   If it was available, I would use it to get to the Legislature.

Selkirk waterfront has a lot of government offices but crappy transit connections from James Bay, Vic West or Esquimalt.   All three would be well served through a water based transit system.   Getting from James Bay to Esquimalt and vice versa would be much faster.   It is when you look at the parts of the city where the water splits it in two where the ferry could make a dramatic improvement in travel times.

Getting from the dock in Colwood to downtown would be about 7.5 to 8 km and require a boat capable of being on open water, I am not sure if they would be economical.   This trip should take about 20 to 25 minutes, which makes it a very reasonable consideration.    You could also run a boat from where the gravel loading dock was at Royal Bay and run people downtown in about 8.5 km.

Victoria as a region has for far too long turned its back on the waterways and harbours at the core of our city, we should be making much better use of them.   The Blue Boats show there is the demand for the service.

I also wonder what is going to happen to the Blue Boats, they are classic working wooden boats.

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