Jurisdictional grey zones and concerns for staff safety have proved barriers for BC Ferries in providing relief to those left waiting for hours in pre-tollbooth traffic in Horseshoe Bay, heard attendees of the Southern Sunshine Coast Ferry Advisory Committee meeting on Sept. 20.
Diana Mumford, chairperson of the SSCFAC brought the issue forward at the committee’s biannual meeting with BC Ferries senior staff. “All too often they are stuck above the toll booth in the summer heat for hours with just four Jiffy Johns at the top of a steep incline, no water and no shade,” she said.
Earlier this year, Mumford attended BC Ferries Annual General Meeting (AGM) and asked Nicolas Jimenez, BC Ferries president and chief executive officer, that steps be immediately taken to relieve the conditions in the pre-ticketed zone by moving traffic into the terminal lot as quickly as possible and by providing water and washrooms above the tollbooths.
Mumford brought copies of the response she received, which said that there were misting stations and water bottles being handed out for a time but that because the area is on an eight-lane highway and a major road, it was very dangerous for their staff to be handing out those bottles and having a misting station.
“I have pictures I took while sitting above the toll booth of women taking their little toddler over to the side and lifting it over a tall concrete barricade so the child can go to the bathroom,” said Mumford. “And I try not to travel through there with my grandchildren, because I am terrified of getting stuck there.”
The committee asked BC Ferries representatives how the road could be deemed too dangerous for BCF employees to walk on, when passengers are expected to carry their children across the same dangerous road to use a washroom.
Terri King, terminal manager for BC Ferries Langdale Terminal, said, “I think we've all tried to come up with some solutions. I’m open to solutions.”
Annie Wise, FAC member, stated, “In the summertime, there are people held in that pre-ticketing area for eight hours in heat waves with no water, they were not prepared. And there are flaggers telling them, 'Don't leave your vehicle, you’ll be moved any minute.'”
Wise added that traffic in the pre-ticketing area was a major topic at the June 17 SSCFAC meeting, and that BC Ferries assured the committee that they would come back with a response, which did not happen.
After being told that the pre-ticketing area was not their jurisdiction, Wise reached out to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) for clarification on who had authority to install amenities in the area.
Geoff Abbott, MOTI roads area manager for Howe Sound / Sunshine Coast operations told her, “BC Ferries has jurisdiction over the waiting area for the ferries, and thus would be responsible for administering any of those suggested actions.”
Brian Jonker, MOTI executive director, marine branch, attended the meeting virtually, and said, “There's an issue here that I think we're all aware of in terms of access to water and washrooms and those types of things at Horseshoe Bay. BC Ferries and MOTI will continue to talk about a resolution.”
“I think it's really important to get past that talking stage because this FAC has been doing this for several years,” said Mumford. “And we keep getting told, we'll talk about it. And meanwhile, we watch young children being held over curbsides to go to the bathroom.”
Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.'
Correction: A previous version of this story said Brian Jonker was an employee of BC Ferries, he is in fact an employee of MOTI.
Jordan Copp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Coast Reporter