Foot-passenger-only ferry favoured by Parksville Qualicum Beach reps

Port authority reaching out to communities to get thoughts on a foot passenger ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver

Would you use a walk-on ferry from downtown Nanaimo to downtown Vancouver?

The Nanaimo Port Authority (NPA) is reaching out to communities surrounding the Harbour City — including Parksville Qualicum Beach — to get their thoughts on a foot passenger ferry between Nanaimo and Vancouver.

“I think there’s a huge opportunity there,” said Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) chair Bill Veenhof. “You can see how with something like that you can connect your transit system to it. Already in the far reaches in (Deep Bay/Bowser) we have transit that connects to Nanaimo. It doesn’t take a great stretch to say you could connect Courtenay and Comox.”

Veenhof said it would have a positive impact on tourism, providing another connection to Vancouver Island.

“It would be awesome if we could have a fast foot passenger ferry from Nanaimo,” he said. “If the service was there and it saved people time I can see how people would use it.”

Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek echoed Veenhof.

“I think that would be a great asset certainly for Nanaimo but also for everyone else (in surrounding communities),” said Westbroek, noting it would be an affordable option for riders as well as an environmentally-conscious choice.

In December, the City of Nanaimo announced it would partner with the port authority in a request for proposals (RFP) for a foot passenger only ferry.

“Council is looking forward to working with the NPA through the RFP process to identify an operator for the foot passenger ferry. This project is a priority for both organizations,” said Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay in a statement. “We hope to have a foot ferry operating from the NPA Cruise Ship Terminal by the end of 2016.”

Port authority CAO Bernie Dumas said the organization is reaching out to surrounding towns and cities to “see how important a passenger-only ferry would be… and more importantly to understand and learn what the connectivity of the surrounding communities are.”

Dumas said letters have been sent out to mayors and councils of mid-Island communities and so far the response has been “very positive.”

“We just want to sit down and talk to the surrounding communities to see their ideas, to see if we can incorporate it,” he said. “The big thing for the Port is the connectively.”

“How best can we bring people in and out to maximize service.”

Dumas said he’s hoping to wrap up discussions with surrounding communities in February and then start “seriously looking and talking to potential operators.”

Details of the project depend largely on the proposals that come forward through the RFP process.