Sunday, August 4, 2013

The mystique of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal

[Image: 600px-Swartzbay1.jpg]

The mystique of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal

By Sakura Honda
The Daily Magi
January 9, 2050

The Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal is a 12.1 ha major transportation facility at Swartz Bay in North Saanich, British Columbia. It is located 32 km (20 mi) north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. The terminal is part of the BC Ferry system, as well as part of Highway 17.

In 1889, former British Columbia Premier Amor de Cosmos, was the first person known to publicly suggest Swartz Bay as a feasible ferry terminal for connections to B.C.'s Lower Mainland. In 1959, the search for a new ferry terminal north of Victoria involved consideration of the existing San Juan Islands ferry facilities at Sidney. Insufficiently sheltered waters and added travel time, leading to higher fuel costs, precluded Sidney.

A small, private ferry dock, operated by the Gulf Islands Ferry Company already existed at Swartz Bay, when the choice was made to locate the B.C. Ferry Corporation terminal there. As a result of the decision, a paved extension of the Patricia Bay Highway to reach the terminal was undertaken.

The first scheduled sailing from the terminal, described as a "mudhole" due to the continuing construction, occurred on June 15, 1960. On September 1, 1961 the company that built and used the smaller original dock at Swartz Bay was bought out by B.C. Ferries.

A fire, caused by a cutting torch, led to $500,000 worth of damage to the terminal in December, 1981. It destroyed part of the passenger walkway and a wingwall, prior to being contained by terminal staff, firefighters and the approaching Queen of Nanaimo, which utilized its hoses to help keep the blaze at bay.

Residents have expressed noise concerns over the years, and the matter has been raised in the Legislative Assembly. Concerns have also been expressed ranging from terminal expansion to the shooting of pigeons by ferry staff. 

On September 14, 2000 the ferry Spirit of Vancouver Island struck a pleasure craft just off Swartz Bay, killing two.

On May 20, 2011 a white GMC pick up truck waiting in line proceeded to drive up the upper ramp of berth #1 and drove through several guard barriers and safety netting at an accelerated speed. The truck then proceeded at a high rate of speed to drive off the end of the berth and into the water. Coast Guard divers have located the truck and deceased driver in the water off the end of the berth.

Currently there are five ferry berths at the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal. The terminal provides BC Ferry service to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal on the mainland, as well as all the major southern Gulf Islands. In the mid 1990s, a major terminal renovation was undertaken.

The terminal includes an administration building, and various kiosks run by local artisans and other vendors mainly in the warmer months. There is also a cafeteria and coffee shop in the main building. The terminal is served by several Victoria Regional Transit System public transit routes, with Route 70 providing express bus service to and from downtown Victoria in about an hour. Short- and long-term pay parking is run by a private operator under contract to BCFS. The terminal is located about 10 minutes from Victoria International Airport via Highway 17. The 29-kilometre (18 mi) Lochside Regional Trail also runs south from Swartz Bay to Victoria.

Swartz Bay is the only major southern terminal in the BC Ferries system without a traffic signal at its entrance or exit.

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