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Getting to Victoria – BC Ferries

Living in Victoria is lovely, but sometimes getting to Victoria can be a challenge.  Because we sit on the southernmost tip of Vancouver Island and there is no bridge to the mainland, we are in some ways isolated from the rest of British Columbia.

People who live here will chuckle at that, because there isn’t much of a sense of isolation, after all, Vancouver Island is an immense chunk of real estate, 460 kilometres (290 miles) in length and 80 kilometres (50 miles) in width at its widest point. At 32,134 km2 (12,407 sq miles), Vancouver Island is the largest Pacific island east of New Zealand, and the largest island on the western side of North America. The City of Victoria, along with the surrounding metropolitan area has a population of over 350,000 (2010) and there is an estimated 747,000 living on Vancouver Island.

Almost any activity you want to participate in, employment, education, health service you require, or almost anything that you may need or want can be found here, so there’s really no need to leave (except maybe to catch a Canucks or Whitecaps game).

When we do decide to leave “The Rock” as Vancouver Island is affectionately known, there are several options, but most often folks come and go on BC Ferries.  And oh, how we love to hate the ferries!  We complain about the cost, we complain about waiting for a ferry, we complain about the food (although it is much improved these days), rough crossings and drivers who can’t navigate the terminal or manage to load or off-load their vehicles quickly enough.  We moan when we’re in the last line of cars to be taken off the ferry and curse when people start their engines way before the ship has docked.

But we really should reconsider our kvetching, after all, we get to combine our travels with a lovely scenic sail through (usually) calm waters – just look at the reactions of tourists when on the ferry – they think they’re on a cruise!  Oohing and aahing at the view and snapping pictures of each other leaning against the railing with the wind whipping their hair back like celebrities on vacation.

Another benefit of the ferries (and I speak from the point of view of an Islander born and bred) is the rather selfish idea that if there were no ferries, if it were really easy to get to Victoria, we would be as crowded and busy as Vancouver.  And we kind of like our exclusivity, call it isolation if you will, but we like the small city atmosphere afforded by our separation from the mainland.

BC Ferries has been in the news frequently, and recently we’ve heard that the CEO, David Hahn is retiring in December, as part of a sweeping cost-savings program.  The corporation is suffering from a combination of low ridership and higher costs, and expects losses over $20 million.  Hahn has stated that his decision to retire is motivated by his desire to turn the debate away from his salary toward more pressing issues like the ongoing fare reviews.

This probably means that fares are going up – again.  All the more reason to hunker down and enjoy staying home, which isn’t difficult when you’re living in Victoria!

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