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Vancouver to Nanaimo Ferry - A Better Idea

I am always looking for new business ideas, but the following one, sent in by a subscriber to the Unusual Ways Newsletter, is not only a decent concept for making money, but also just plain a good idea for other reasons.

by Jim Eagles

Current Situation

4 million people travel by ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island every year. 70% travel by car at an average cost of $50 (for the car alone). But the biggest cost of traveling by car is the amount of incremental time required to reach the ferry, line up, and load. At peak times this can reach 2-3 hours of quite unpleasant heavy traffic and waiting in line.

Proposed Solution

Traveling as a "foot" passenger has many advantages.

  • Busses go to the ferry from several parts of the city. They are comfortable and circumvent most of the traffic line-ups to the ferry.
  • There is at most a 5 minute line-up for foot passengers so you can arrive 15 minutes before the boat leaves worry free.
  • There is a major environmental saving to switch to foot from car. Cars on the ferry are the limiting factor. To increase capacity of the system you need more ferries, bigger ferries, more docking capacity. Also of course, there is a major cost and impact of the fuel used to move all those cars.

What I propose is to create a service where travelers could park their car well outside the high traffic area, board a bus to the ferry, ride as a foot passenger on the ferry, be picked up by a bus at the destination, and be delivered to a car rental agency at their destination.


The cost of the passenger is the same whether in a car or on foot so these costs wash. Depending on time and distance traveled the rental costs would have to be compared to the savings of transporting the car which is $100 ($50 each way times 2). Shorter trips where car rental costs are less than $100 would pay off on a hard cost basis. But the big advantage is the reduced time and anxiety associated with waiting and hoping that you will get on the next ferry. Time wasted can be 2-3 hours at each end. Depending on how you value your time this cost can be significant. The environmental advantages are huge. The ferries carried 1.2 million cars last year on this route and used 115 million litres of fuel on all its routes. A conversion of a percentage of car passage to pedestrian would have a major impact.

Car rental is currently available at both ends of this route. Bus access is good at the Vancouver end. But no one has packaged this service and no one has promoted it. I believe there is a significant opportunity here. Most Western airports now offer a "Park and Fly" service so people understand the concept. In your region it may not be a ferry service. It might be a commuter service, a ski hill service, a sports event service. But chances are there is some driving being done that is unpleasant and unnecessary.

Jim Eagles is currently working with...




Steve's Note: Though I am not familiar with the Vancouver to Nanaimo route, I imagine there are those who take the ferry regularly. For them a quick car rental service would probably be possible, by keeping their information online and giving them a card to quickly get a car. All-in-all the basic idea sounds like a good one--let's hope someone gives it a try.

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