About BC Ferries

Terminal Development Planning

Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island Termianl

The Gabriola Island terminal at Descanso Bay connects Gabriola residents to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

The Quinsam carries up to 70 vehicles and 400 passengers and crew on this route, operating daily, year round, with a crossing time of 20 minutes.

The Gabriola Island Terminal Development Plan (TDP) involves creating conceptual design options, and the implementation of a schedule and budget for future terminal upgrades.

In January 2018, the terminal development team began the process of creating a Terminal Development Plan including working with staff from multiple departments at BC Ferries and meeting with the Ferry Advisory Committee to discuss key issues and identify stakeholders to engage in the planning process.

In spring 2018, we engaged with the community and key stakeholders to gather feedback, suggestions and ideas that will help shape the future improvements at Gabriola Island terminal. This included a community information session and an online survey. Learn more about the concepts, key issues and opportunities for Gabriola Island.

View the Engagement Summary Infographic
View the Engagement Summary Report

We informed the community the project will involve constructing a new berth to replace the current berth and modifying/expanding the uplands area, which includes the waiting room and car parking area.

We gathered further on the ideas of:

  • More dedicated vehicle queuing lanes
  • Improved traffic flow, pick-up/drop-off area and expanded short-term parking area
  • Improved customer amenities including a new passenger waiting room

Following the public information sessions, our team reviewed the feedback we received from the community and stakeholder discussions and have developed a refined option for the Gabriola Island terminal. Please review the refined option below and share your feedback with us by email at tdpinfo@bcferries.com.

View the Refined Option for Gabriola

A refined option for the Nanaimo Harbour terminal has also been posted on the Nanaimo Harbour Terminal Development webpage for your review.

Where We Are Now

We have been refining a draft TDP that includes the functional requirements, the refined concept design, and identifies a phased approach to implementing changes at the terminal. One key consideration that has been identified is that in order to implement the project, the terminal along with any extension of the water lot, requires a Zoning and Official Community Plan (OCP) Bylaw amendment application to be submitted and adopted by the Islands Trust to ensure compliance with Municipal Bylaws. This is required prior to the commencement of any development at the terminal. The upcoming information session is to describe the proposals and hear from the community before making an application to Islands Trust.

We invite you to attend:

3–6 pm
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
Gabriola Island Arts Council Hall
476 South Road, Gabriola Island

View the Information Session details

The community feedback will be submitted to the Islands Trust as part of our applications. It is expected that the applications will take around 18-24 months to process and there will be further opportunities to provide comments during the process.

Project Manager's Updates

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is BC Ferries planning improvements to the Gabriola terminal?
We recognize there are several key issues that need to be addressed at the Gabriola terminal, including:

  • The foot passenger and washroom buildings are at the end of their service life
  • Improved safety and congestion concerns related to the queuing of traffic along North Road and Taylor Bay Road
  • The marine infrastructure is reaching the end of its life and needs replacing in the near future. Replacement is required in order to provide reliable service for the Quinsam and the two new Island Class vessels that will serve this route starting in 2021. More information on the two new vessels can be found here

Why is BC Ferries rezoning the Gabriola Island ferry terminal and what is involved?
The ferry terminal at Descanso Bay (Gabriola Island) is currently split zoned under the Islands Trust Gabriola Zoning Bylaw as follows;

  • The water lot is zoned Water Commercial 3 – Marine Transportation (WC3). The ferry terminal is listed as a permitted use in this WC3 zone.
  • The leased upland portion where the waiting room/holding lanes and parking lot are located is currently zoned Large Rural Residential (LRR). In this area a ferry terminal is not a permitted use. This area needs a zoning bylaw amendment to be submitted and adopted before construction can commence.

The Gabriola Island Official Community Plan (OCP) also split designates the terminal as follows:

  • The water lot is designated as Marine and;
  • Upland portion is designated as Resource and Small Rural Residential.

Given that Islands Trust staff cannot support a zoning Bylaw amendment which is not in accordance with the OCP, an application to amend the OCP is therefore also required and must be adopted before the zoning amendment application.

Therefore, in order to implement the project, the upland area along with any extension of the water lot requires a Zoning and OCP Bylaw amendment application to be submitted and adopted by the Islands Trust to ensure compliance with these Municipal Bylaws prior to the commencement of development.

What is the timeline for a revitalized terminal at Gabriola?
We are in the process of developing a long-term plan that will guide the phased development of the terminal over the next 25 years. This plan is known as a Terminal Development Plan (TDP) and is developed with extensive community engagement and input.

Once the TDP is complete, the OCP and rezoning amendment applications will be submitted to the Islands Trust. These applications are expected to take 18-24 months to complete. Pending successful OCP and rezoning amendments, construction is planned for the 2021 – 2022 timeframe.

Do the terminal rezoning and OCP amendments affect the implementation of the two new vessels on the route?
No, these amendments do not affect the introduction of the new vessels. The Gabriola Terminal Development project and the Island Class vessel project are two separate projects. Their timelines are not connected or dependent on each other.

How will community input be used?
Your input is important to us and the input we are gathering now will shape the terminal design concept that goes into the Gabriola Terminal Development Plan. You will also be engaged in rezoning efforts as well as future phases of the terminal development including:

  1. Detailed design: The creation of the detailed design plans that will guide construction of the terminal
  2. Construction: The development of mitigation plans to minimize impact to the community during terminal construction.

Will the Terminal Development Plan address routes, service levels, and scheduling?
No. The Terminal Development Plan addresses the future site planning and design of the terminal, but does not address service levels, routes, frequency of service, scheduling, or fares.

Has the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) approved the concept terminal plan for Gabriola Terminal?
BC Ferries received support in principle on the draft terminal concept plan from MOTI.

MOTI remains one of our key stakeholders in the development planning process, and discussions on the concept plan will continue prior to the submission of our rezoning application with Islands Trust.

Who has BC Ferries engaged with as part of the Terminal Development Planning process?
We have engaged our key stakeholders including MOTI, the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) and Islands Trust. We also held drop-in sessions for the community in May and September 2018 and have welcomed feedback on the draft terminal concept via email at tdpinfo@bcferries.com.

Next Steps

The terminal development planning process is expected to be completed by spring 2019. Following the completion of the TDP, the Rezoning and OCP Amendment Applications will be submitted to the Islands Trust. It is expected that the applications will take around 18-24 months to process. Stay tuned for more updates..

For questions on terminal development planning, please email tdpinfo@bcferries.com.

If you have any questions, want to provide feedback, or require further information about the Gabriola Island terminal development engagement process, contact tdpinfo@bcferries.com or write to us at British Columbia Ferry Services Inc., Terminal Development, Suite 500 - 1321 Blanshard Street, Victoria, BC, V8W 0B7. Your email, address information and any other information about you is being collected under section 26 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for the terminal development engagement process. If you have any questions about the collection of your information, contact the Manager, Terminal Development by calling 250-978-1479, or write to us at this email or at the address above.

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