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Foot Passenger Reservations

Foot passengers treated as second class citizens at BC Ferries? BC Ferries allows car reservations on the Vancouver-Southern Gulf Island route, but not foot passenger reservations. The letter included below was sent to BC Ferries for their comment.

Update (Sept 2008). The reponse from BC Ferries is below.

Our letter of July 28, 2008 to BC Ferries President David Hahn

July 31, 2008

BC Ferries
1112 Fort St
Victoria, BC V8V 4V2

Dear David Hahn,

On July 1, I was on my way to Tsawwassen, coming back from Saturna Island. I had planned to catch the 3:45PM ferry that transfers at Village Bay onto the Queen of Nanaimo. At Saturna, I was told by a BC Ferries employee that the connecting ferry at Mayne Island was already full; hence, we had to do an extra transfer and go to Swartz Bay (2 transfers on 3 different ferries). This entailed a delay of 2 hours, lengthening our total trip time to 5 hours instead of 3. Vehicle-passengers, on the other hand, were able to make reservations in advance and made it onto the scheduled ferry without a problem.

My question is why can someone make reservations onto the ferry with a car, but not as a foot passenger? It seems like BC Ferries is giving preferential treatment to customers bringing vehicles on the ferry by allowing vehicle reservations, but not walk-on passenger reservations. If foot passengers were allowed to make reservations in advance, it would have saved me, along with other passengers, the hassle of making 2 transfers and spending almost half a day trying to make it back home.

This policy of BC Ferries giving preferential treatment to vehicle passengers goes contrary to the provincial government’s mandate of sustainability and active living. In this era of carbon taxes and energy-efficient incentives, BC Ferries needs to be doing everything possible to encourage the public to leave their cars at home. Instead, it is very successfully deterring foot passengers like myself from taking public transit and walking onto the ferry.

On July 5, stranded passengers were turned away from a ferry on Galiano Island due to a lack of crew members on board. This reinforces the pressing concern of BC Ferries needing to take a hard look at their operating policies and structure, as passenger needs seem to be the last thing on BC Ferries’ agenda.

A possible solution to the problem of staffing of vessels would be to introduce foot passenger reservations on the Southern Gulf Island routes, and possibly other routes. This would enable BC Ferries to predict a more accurate passenger count, as well as ensure that the ferry has adequate crew for the voyage. In turn, passengers can actually rely on the schedule to make it to their destinations within a reasonable time. This is especially important for the southern Gulf Islands routes, which often have only 2 sailings per day. Moreover, an advanced reservation system for foot passengers may encourage more people to leave their vehicles at home and reduce their carbon footprint.

I hope you will take immediate action regarding advanced reservation for foot passengers, such that British Columbians can be proud of a ferry transport system that listens to customer concerns and does their part in environment sustainability.

Thank you.


Matthew Buchanan

Member, Transport Action BC

Reply from BC Ferries September 23, 2008

September 23, 2008

Mr. Matthew Buchanan
Member, Transport Action BC

Dear Mr. Buchanan

I am writing in response to your letter of July 31st, addressed to Mr. David Hahn, President and CEO of BC Ferries. Mr. Hahn was unsuccessful in reaching you by phone and has asked me to follow up with you on his behalf. We regret the delay in our response

Offering foot passenger reservations is definitely in our future plans, for many of the reasons you have suggested. We are currently engaged in a review of requests for proposals to provide BC Ferries with a new, more flexible reservation system that will allow us to provide this and other services more easily.

We hope to have the new system in place in time for the 2010 Olympics.

Thank you for contacting us and for the opportunity to respond to your suggestions.


Karen Chrabasz
Manager, Customer Relations

cc: Mr. David Hahn, President and CEO