Metro column: David vs. Goliath, or fog of bureaucracy?

15 December 2008

Last week, while TransLink was talking up expansion plans and funding needs for the future, it was also taking some heat on a very different issue, and from an unlikely source.

An upstart ferry service is crying foul over the way it claims it is being treated by Metro Vancouver’s transit authority.

Coastal Link Ferries, which operates a walk-on service daily between Bowen Island and Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver, wants to pick up and drop off passengers at an unused dock at the Waterfront Station SeaBus terminal.

The prime location would allow its customers to link up with SkyTrain and buses, not to mention the popular SeaBus service.

The problem is, despite its persistence in trying to iron out a deal with TransLink for the space, Coastal Link — which plans on expanding its service to the Sunshine Coast and Port Moody — has so far heard nothing.

And that leaves Peter Green, Coastal Link’s director of marketing and communications, feeling frustrated and perplexed.

“We want to pay them to use the dock,” he says. “Can’t we find a way to make this work now?”

He and Coastal Link owner Ihab Shaker appeared before the TransLink board earlier this month to find out why they were, as Green puts it, “being ignored.”

He maintains that Coastal Link received no explanation as to why it was getting the cold shoulder.

So I asked TransLink’s Ken Hardie about Green’s concerns. According to Hardie, the company has not provided the transit authority with enough information to date.

So is this saga less David and Goliath, and more the old story of small enterprise sailing into the fog of government bureaucracy?

It’s too early to tell.

But at least one thing is certain: Given its maritime setting, Metro Vancouver is woefully under-served by passenger ferry transit.

That’s especially clear when the region is stacked up against a port city like Sydney, Australia, where a flourishing ferry network moves millions of commuters around annually.

TransLink is aware of the role passenger ferries can play in undoing our region’s transportation crunch. Its 2004 Vancouver Harbour Passenger Marine study made the case for improved ferry service — which would reduce the need for peak hour buses.

So a deal for the dock in 2008 would be, as Shaker puts it, “a win-win situation” — not only for his company and TransLink, but for coastal commuters as well.


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Filed under British Columbia, Commuting, Marine transport, Real Estate, Sydney, Transportation

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