The Q to Q ferry, which carries passengers from Westminster Quay to Queensborough, will be sailing back to New Westminster this month.
The service will run daily from May 19 to October 28.
“The 2018 Q to Q pilot ferry project gives us an opportunity to test the viability of providing a regular ferry service between Queensborough and downtown New Westminster,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a press release. “Providing a reliable and frequent connection for commuters, shoppers and those seeking access to transit services, recreational and cultural opportunities seven days a week is a priority for our growing city.”
The city has selected Bowen Land and Sea Taxi (BLAST) as the operator of this year’s pilot ferry service. The Bowen Belle and the Bowen Guardian, 12-passenger water taxis, will initially be used, but the company is prepared to deploy the MV Bruno Gerusi, a 40-passenger catamaran, if demand is high.
In 2007, the city signed an agreement with the provincial government, B.C. Lottery Corporation and a casino operator as part of the city’s decision to allow a destination casino in New Westminster. When plans to use some of those funds, known as DAC, to build a pedestrian crossing between Queensborough and the Quay fell through because of its high cost, the city received permission to use funds for other projects, such as the ferry service.
In December, the city hired a project manager to lead all aspects of the pilot project.
According to a New West city staff report, the cost of the 2018 pilot ferry service is $1,296,000, which includes $601,000 for operations (such as project management services, ferry operations and marketing and communications), with operations to be funded from capital reserves ($446,000), sales revenue ($125,000) and sponsorship revenue from Aragon Properties ($25,000) and others contributing $5,000 in sponsorships. Infrastructure upgrades and project management for upgrades will cost $695,000, with funding coming from DAC casino funds ($314,000) and TransLink ($381,000).
While a number of infrastructure upgrades are being considered for the downtown and Queensborough docks to improve safety and accessibility, the city plans to operate the ferry service with the existing infrastructure until the upgrades can be complete. Lisa Leblanc, the city’s transportation manager, said the city plans to complete infrastructure improvements later this year.
The ferry will operate Monday to Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends and statutory holidays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Two 12-passenger vessels are set to depart from docks near Inn at the Quay and Port Royal every 15 minutes or so during peak hours (Monday to Friday – 7 to 9 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. and weekends – 11:10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) and at 30-minute intervals at other times of the day. The ride between the two docks will take about five minutes.
While many community members raved about last year’s demonstration project, some voiced concerns the ferry wasn’t accessible for people using wheelchairs or mobility aids. The ferries being used for this year’s full-scale service are capable of carrying two wheelchairs and four bicycles per trip.
“Efforts to improve accessibility for users of all ages and mobility have been made to this year’s ferry service. The ferry vessels are outfitted to allow equitable access for all users including those with mobility aids,” said a city press release. “The ferry vessels are equipped with gently sloping ramps to allow wheeled mobility aids free access, and tie-downs for wheelchairs to ensure passenger safety. The ferry operator will aid passengers upon request.”
Information about gangway slopes will be provided on the Q to Q website and ferry terminals at least one week in advance so passengers can plan trips based on optimal slopes to access the docks independently and safely.
Tickets for the ferry are $2 for full fare and $1 for concession (seniors over 65, children six to 18 years and people with disabilities), with monthly passes available for $40 for full fare and $20 for concession. Along with buying tickets on board using exact change, people can use all forms of payment to buy tickets at Queensborough Community Centre, New Westminster City Hall and Centennial Community Centre, and at River Market.