Slide Presentation on the South Side Option for Ferry Marshalling on Bowen Island


David Hill, PEng, FBCS

Note: There is a video of
an abbreviated (15 minute) oral version of this presentation, as given to the Bowen Municipal Council on November 26th. 2012. (Start: ~19:00 min; End ~43:00 min, video quality so-so.)
There is a full MP3 audio file of that live presentation, as given to council, including questions,
as well as a written transcript of the MP3 audio.


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My presentation is divided into 6 main sections: Context; Goals; Overview; Elements; Financing; and Advantages. Appendix A details the relative value of the south side investment; and , and Appendix B provides construction time and cost details of recent major BC engineering projects, for comparison.


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Bowen as a place to live

Note that the island population, the number of dwellings, ferry traffic and ferry overloads all continue to increase despite the recession. (Figures are from StatsCan & BC Ferries)

Bowen population & housing
Full-time population: 3,402 up 1.2% from 2006
up 14.9% from 2001
Private dwellings:1,760up 7.3% from 2006
Ferry Traffic on Route 8 (HSB⇔Snug Cove)VehiclesPassengers
2010 (Calendar year)476,8801,129,830
2011 (Calendar year)480,5531,142,107
Overloads on Route 8 (HSB⇔Snug Cove)
2009858(7.76% of 11,060 sailings)
2010998(8.72% of 11,444 sailings)
20111158(10.12% of 11,444 sailings)
2012is headed towards over1,200 overloads (10.5%)

Note: in the survey of ferry users I ran in September 2012, over 55% of the respondents chose the south side as their preferred location for ferry marshalling, 19% were for keeping the existing arrangement, 15% for putting marshalling in the north park, and only 11% thought Government Road should be widened. The respondents were overwhelmingly long-term Bowen Island residents. Here are the full results. They are considered accurate to within ± 9% 19 times out of 20.

Bowen Environment

The Bowen environment comprises three parts: natural; social; and economic. All are complex. We all value and wish to protect the natural environment—a reason for living on Bowen—but it is worth noting, in passing, that the area we are considering on the south side for ferry marshalling is far from pristine.

The social environment comprises daily interactions: in the Cove, on the ferry, on the forum, on the hiking trails, socialising and so on. The economic environment involves a balance between income and expenditure, and the relationship to the facilities that impact the island. All depend ultimately on economic viability.

Island income derives from many sources:

Municipal income derives from:

Business income depends on:

The facilities that islanders would be willing to pay for, one way or another, including the important factor of the ferry service. The ferry brings workers and services from the mainland, of course.

Thus the island depends crucially on a reliable, convenient ferry service. The quality of this service affects access to all kinds of services not available on the island (medical, legal, ...), who is prepared to come to the island to visit or work, how easily we can obtain goods for the shops and for activities such as house construction (including concrete, and road-building materials), the removal of debris and garbage, and how valuable are the properties on the island, as well as the ability of commuters to earn their contribution to island income.

The ferry is the key factor in economic viability.

An out-of-service dock is a problem at any time, but especially in an emergency such as a major forest fire or earthquake. What is the earthquake resistance of our current dock?

Snug Cove

The Cove should be a place for residents and visitors alike to shop, eat and enjoy. It should have a pedestrian orientation. At present it is far from pedestrian friendly. This is well illustrated by an email I received from a young mother in October 2012:

“I have spent some time on your site this week and find it to be both informative and common-sensical ... The more I consider what you so clearly and articulately point out, the more sense it makes. It could be so enlivening in the cove without a ferry holding pen in the middle of it. I can count on one hand the number of times I brought the boys down to the cove this summer as I just don't need the hassle of parking, congestion and the adrenaline rush I give myself whenever the ferry loads or un-loads and I have to re-group the kids and make sure everyone is accounted for and safe.”

How can we have a pedestrian-oriented Cove if it is also a ferry marshalling yard?

Support for commuters (and others who need to use the ferry)

We must build a ferry service for the long term to ensure reliability and performance, and hence economic viability, for the vital purposes and more mentioned above. Not to do so is wilfully suicidal.

A rough calculation of some of the waste occurring from overloads and the associated waste time, not only of those missing the ferry, but also those who prudently arrive early, just on the Bowen side, checks outs at over $1 million dollars a year, even at minimum wage for those involved.

Travelling on foot and using busses is no panacea. Those who can (single destination ferry users with no goods, equipment, or confidential material can do it -- if the extra journey time can be utilised constructively. But those with multiple destinations, goods, equipment, confidential materials, and so on cannot. (We might ask why there is no rail transit from downtown Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay -- apparently because West Vancouver doesn't want it near them, quite apart from the up-front capital cost.)



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  1. Facilitate Snug Cove Revitalisation
  2. Improve Ferry Marshalling
  3. Enhance Tourism
  4. Invigorate Businesses

These goals are all closely inter-related and will be discussed together with the "operation" of the Cove and the defects of the current “Quantum” plan (the Q-Plan).

The Bowen Municipal Economic Development Advisory Committee, at their August 27th 2012 meeting, had on on-table agenda item 4.4 that called for unobstructed off-loading of the ferry. It also called for ferry marshalling to be moved off Government Road. Why have these sensible ideas originating in their own committee not been considered, or even acknowledged by council?

Defects seen in the current “Quantum Plan” in the context of the desired goals

It is my strongly held opinion the latest proposal (so-called “Government Road Corridor Improvements Program” or Q-Plan) falls seriously short in terms of all four goals. Worse, it has other problems that clearly degrade ferry marshalling and village operation rather than improve Government Road or ferry marshalling—unless it is thought that more concrete, and millions of dollars of tax money spent, are worthwhile ends in themselves. For example:

In my opinion, the “Quantum Plan” fails to address any of the goals. The the whole arrangement comprises various obstructions, accidents waiting to happen. It is inferior to the admittedly inadequate and disruptive but workable arrangement already in place.

The south side proposal addresses all the goals at the expense of a short walk.

It would be better by far to move the ferry marshalling to the south side, financed on a user pay system like the Port Mann bridge (see below ***), and make the village an attractive destination for all who would then like to use it (attract tourists and islanders alike, and strengthen businesses). When the ferry at Gibson's Landing was moved out the to Langdale, business owners in the town were sure that their businesses would suffer. Instead they are thriving even though Langdale is far removed from Gibson's. The south side proposal is three or four minutes walk from the upper and lower Cove businesses.


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This slide shows an aerial view of the Snug Cove, marina and south shore areas. The grey outline is the proposed marshalling area, leading from Dorman Road to the proposed new ferry dock, east of the point that is opposite the existing dock. There is a simple roundabout at the Dorman road end, and a three lane entrance/exit, with a bulge indicating where parking for up to a maximum of 125 cars can be provided, on an expandable basis. Half the area is on land, requiring roughly 25 acres (8.7 hectares). The remainder is on a concrete deck over part of the foreshore, hugging the shoreline, and supported on concrete pillars anchored into the bedrock. This provides 60 feet of clearance from the existing government dock, sufficient for the passage of vessels, float-planes and dredgers into the USSC marina. It also provides a sheltered habitat for marine creatures. There is a turnaround and drop-off area just west of the dock that is well over twice the size of the existing dock near the present dock on the north side, as indicated by the light grey outlines.

The steep bluff by the dock would provide a convenient basis for an upper-level passenger loading gate for normal operation.

The dock should be built to modern seismic standards, and be strong enough to take a "C" Class ferry—not because we expect to use such a ferry, but because a "C" Class ferry may be essential to evacuate the island expeditiously in the event of a serious emergency (fire, earthquake, ...). Only a lower car deck ramp would be provided, but such a ferry could take ~1,600 passengers and evacuate the island in ~4 hours, rather than the 13 hours or more it would take the existing ferry.

Thus the south side option:


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This shows the same aerial view of the immediate Snug Cove area, with distance circles marked, centred on "The Snug" in the lower Cove. Note that many parts of the marshalling area, in particular the parking stalls and much of the marshalling area, are within three or four minutes walk (350 yards) of upper and lower cove. The exception is for cars right down by the dock, which are up to 400 yards further (total 700 yards). As with the current arrangement, how far depends on where cars are in the line-up, but foot passengers would be dropped off right by the dock. Commuters parking their cars have guaranteed parking and a reasonably short walk. It is ~500 yards from the existing dock to Cates Corner (Village Square) and over 1,000 yards from the existing dock to the end of the existing line-up. Distances at Horseshoe Bay, for parking, village visits, and so on, are of the same order.

Thus the south side provides:


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This slide is a diagram showing the detail of the “bulge”


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This slide shows the lanes/footpath detail at the the narrowing west end of the marshalling area, as it approaches the roundabout.

  • the two exit lanes carry straight through to the Dorman Road roundabout
  • the two marshalling lanes end progressively as does the centre footpath
  • one lane serves the marshalling lanes, the access lane to the dock area and the (optional) south parallel parking
  • the north and south footpaths continue to Dorman Road
  • the exit width of three lanes plus footpaths is 44 feet, which fits available space


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    The sketch of slide 9, from a viewpoint above the north side of the Cove, illustrates the small visual impact of the proposed facility. Note: the sailboats have been removed from the marina for visibility & ease of sketching. Note: that the old dock is kept, to act as a “spare”. Bowen depends on a working dock, but it would only be used on a temporry basis, if absolutely necessary.


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    Slide 10 is a photograph from ground level on the north side of the marina looking towards the proposed south side deck area. Note: that the forest of masts and decks tends to obscure the view of that area.


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    How would the financing work?

    BC Ferries will consider designing, building and financing the south side docking and marshalling facility if Bowen Municipal Council asks and agrees to cost recovery (through ferry fares). This was first stated verbally on December 13th 2004, following a council meeting; it was confirmed in writing in June and August 2011, June 2012, and in November 2012 the new V-P Engineering—Mark Wilson—put in writing that there is no reason to suppose anything has changed in this respect. View this and other correspondence.


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    Basically the south side solves nearly all the problems of ferry marshallling and village freedom-for-revitalisation in one fell swoop!

    SLIDE 13: What is currently seen on arrival at Bowen Island by ferry.
    (Note: this view would persist with all north side schemes)

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    SLIDE 14: The view for vehicles and passengers arriving at the proposed south side facility—a much more inviting arrival.

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    SLIDE 15: Regardless of the outcome, we want to avoid anything like this!

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    APPENDIX A: Port Mann versus Bowen “south side” marshalling

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    1. Port Mann bridge traffic is currently stated to be 127,000 per day (Wikipedia)
    2. On average the bridge carries between 115,000 and 125,000 vehicles per day (according to Port Mann / Highway 1 Improvement Project information) ~8 % is truck traffic, ~75% of the Port Mann traffic is Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOV) (127,000 x .75 = 95,250)—taking the more optimistic figure, which lowers the per trip per day subsidy cost. These are trips in either direction, and the tolls are applied in either direction too.
    3. SOV = 95,250 (95,250 people trips/day) High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) > 31,750 (say 31,750 x 3 people trips/day = 95,250). Total people trips/day of the order of 190,500 (allows a conservative excess for HOVs, some busses, and some ride-shares in excess of two per car)
    4. The Bowen ferry carries 60,000 visitors a year (BC Ferries, 2012). 60,000/365 = 164 to and from the island (more in summer—37%—than in winter—21%)
    5. The Bowen ferry carries an average of 500 workers, 200 students a day to and from the island
    6. There are incoming workers as well. Be conservative and ignore them for now.
    7. Total people trips, on average is (500 + 200 + 164) x 2 = 1,728
    8. The investment per person/trip per day on the Port Mann bridge -- $3.3 billion divided by the estimated 190,500 -- is $17,323
    9. For Bowen a commensurate investment would be $17,323 x 1,728 = $29,934,144 (close enough to $30 million)
    10. Tolls would be applied (added to the ferry fare), but are estimated at 50 cents a person and $1.50 per car based on $25 million at 2% interest over 25 years (the Port Mann tolls are $3 a motor-cycle, $6 a car, $9 for a larger vehicle, and $18 a truck -- after the initial discounted period)

    Note 1: the new terminal would save time for users comparable to the Port Mann savings.

    Note 2: Route 8 (Bowen-HSB) is amongst the handful of privileged routes that have greater than 50% average occupancy so we have some leverage in negotiations.

    APPENDIX B: Examples of the cost and duration of recent major BC engineering projects

    It is of interest that the city of New Westminster recently spent $25 million rehabilitating a strip of industrial land by the river. The plan was put together in two months and the project was completed in two years, finishing in March 2012. The money came from the “Building Canada” fund and is described in the November/December APEGBC journal “Innovation” on pages 22 to 25.

    Equally of interest is the cost and duration of the Sea-toSky highway project for the Olympics.

    The Sea-to-Sky highway upgrade is actually budgetted for roughly $2 billion over 25 years. However. the initial investment was pegged at $600 million, the rest being an ongoing shadow toll subsidy plus maintenance by the government. The auditor general of BC pegged the final capital cost at $795 million. It makes the highway safer (for people, at least, though perhaps not for wildlife), saves someone from Squamish 10 minutes on the run to downtown Vancouver, and provides access to the Whistler ski resort. It was completed between 2007 and February 2010—less than four years.

    “An estimated 2 million vehicles pass by the Brittania [Mines] site every year. In 2000, about 6,800 vehicles per day were counted by Mimistry of Transport officials on average during the summer (June through August). Winter was not significantly less, with about 5,600 annual average daily vehicles on the Sea-toSke Highway during winter months in 2000. Northbound traffic counted at Squamish in 2000 showed an estimated 2 million vehicles heading north to Squamish and beyond.”
    “In 2001, Whistler attracted about 2.04 million visitors, of which 59% were summer visitors. ... Whister day visitors ranged from about 6% in the winter months (1999/2000) to about 14% during the summer months (2000).
    (in “A Conceptual Design Study for the Brittania Centre for Mining Innovation”, prepared for Natural Resources Canada by Toby Russell Buckwell & partners, architects, May 2003, PAGES 36-37)

    There is a discrepancy in these figures since 2 million vehicles in 365 days gives an average of 5,479 vehicles per day—less than either of the daily figures quoted. It is also odd that a figure of about 2 million is given for just the northbound traffic and, apparently, for the total If we take the conservative approach of using a 4 million figure (10,959 person trips per day)— and the lower figure of $600 million for the capital cost, the investment per trip per day works out at $600,000,000 divided by 10,959 = $54,750. This greatly exceeds the same sum for either the Port Mann bridge or the Bowen south side project. Presumably the rationale is that there will be economic development along the corridor.

    It is crazy to squeeze Bowen residents and Snug Cove, when the island can be made more viable, attractive and supportive with a modest capital outlay that solves so many problems and is paid for by those who will use it, rather than taxpayers.

    Page created 2012-12-10

    Last modified: Wed Dec 12 17:10:37 PST 2012