Ferry Ferry Quite Contrary in West Vancouver

It was an idea that was sunk some ten years ago, but it has been reported tonight that West Vancouver council has approved a six month ferry trial service from West Vancouver to downtown Vancouver.

The ferry will take passengers from the 14th Street pier near Ambleside Park to the Bute Street dock in Vancouver.

CBC reports the following:

Ferry owner Ihab Shaker, who set up the 70-passenger Coastal Link ferry route between Bowen Island and the Bute Street Dock in downtown Vancouver’s Coal Harbour, proposed to have the vessel stop at the Ambleside Pier during its daily run.

The idea already had the support of Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, who said it makes sense from the perspective of heritage, transportation and sustainability.”

“I think the fact you can get to the Convention Centre, on a ferry, for $5 from West Vancouver is a big step in the right direction,” said Goldsmith-Jones.

Service is expected to be up and running by November and will run through the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in February.

The Bowen Island ferry currently makes one round trip per day Monday to Friday, departing Bowen Island at 7 a.m. PT and Vancouver at 5 p.m. on the 35-minute run.

This is not the first time however that this idea has floated past council.

Back in 1999, with massive Lions Gate refurbishments and long commuter delays looming, then councillor Russ Fraser proposed the idea of a commuter ferry only to be met with extreme opposition by staff in an outing that he called “bureaucracy run amok”.

Lengthy studies into everything from parking to insurance costs to the fairness of the RFP  (Request for Proposals) process for private vendors was brought up in a multi-page report that was returned to council some four months after the idea was first introduced. Back then, the costs to provide this service were estimated at $608,000 in 1999 dollars. The conclusion – too costly and too risky – the idea was scuttled (see articles included below).

Still, if council has concluded that this is now an idea whose time has come, questions remain as to the source of funds and/or profits to be realized. According to the staff report, Coastal Link will not be charged a licensing fee and all associated costs (lights, signage) will be absorbed by the District of West Vancouver.

What now remains to be seen is whether or not the District of West Vancouver, and its taxpayers, stand to win or lose from what, on the surface, appears to be a yet undisclosed 3P (public, private partnership) arrangement.

– Editor

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January 20, 1999 – North Shore News – By Catherine Barr – reporter

A West Vancouver passenger ferry service is in the works to help locals deal with the inevitable problem of crossing the Lions Gate Bridge during reconstruction.

West Vancouver council is making preparations for a limited service passenger ferry to run from both Ambleside and Dundarave piers during the morning and evening rush hours.

Service will start two months prior to commencement of any Lions Gate Bridge upgrades or construction.

Right now, the plans are in the very early stages and much is not known. Schedules, fares, and associated costs are still being worked out. In fact, Council has not even chosen the vessels but said it is willing to entertain proposals and is anxious to work out the details.

They guarantee that no matter what, the ferry service will be completely safe and will comply with all coast guard rules and regulations.

“We all know that traffic congestion problems on the Lions Gate Bridge during the reconstruction will be a nightmare,” said Coun. Russ Fraser. “And what limited work we can do, we should do.”

“We will look at a chance to put in a ferry service from Ambleside and Dundarave piers,” he said. “And (we) will also ask for the seabus hours to be extended and things like that to make sure people get back and forth across the Burrard Inlet at a reasonable time of day.”

Overall, Fraser said he was dissatisfied with the plans to revitalize the bridge and said he wishes for other, more sensible solutions.

“What we really need is a half decent bridge,” he said. “The three-lane one is just stupid, but we’re not getting one just yet.”

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May 27, 1999 – North Shore News – By Catherine Barr – reporter

The idea of a West Vancouver ferry service has sunk.

The commuter ferry idea was introduced in January by Coun. Russ Fraser. He proposed starting the service to help bring people across the water during the Lions Gate Bridge upgrades. He called the proposal a “serendipity idea.”

But a April 22 report from staff indicates that the risks are too great and the cost too expensive.

Staff identified a number of reasons for not going ahead with the project including transportation connections, lack of shelters, pier and docking problems and insurance claim liabilities.

The costs, as they added up, came to a whopping $608,000.

Some councillors said it was too bad that the idea had to be abandoned.

Fraser said it was supposed to be “mainly a vehicle of delight and reunion” and was more so an attempt to return to the “good old days” when a ferry service used to operate from West Vancouver.

Coun. Liz Byrd agreed. “This is bureaucracy gone mad,” she said about the report. “I’d like to go back to the good old days.”

Byrd said she was really disappointed and felt burdened by the “layers and layers of people telling us why we can’t do (things).”

Meanwhile, outgoing West Vancouver Chamber of Commerce president John Clark confirmed that the Lions Gate bridge closings had been reduced from the original 150 nights to around 40 closure nights. Bridge upgrades are expected to start in January.

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