For city dwellers seeking green space, a long-weekend jaunt to Toronto Islands seemed like a perfect plan.
It had the breeze, beaches, barbecues – and the most epic lineups east of Pearson Airport. Passengers took to Twitter to complain of long wait times and crowds jammed into the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal or while waiting to return, reminiscent of last summer when ferries operated at lower capacity due to the pandemic.
There were no COVID restrictions on ferries during this year’s July 1 weekend, but Councilor Joe Mihevc (Spadina — Fort York) said the crowds may reflect Torontonians’ “pent-up desire to get out and enjoy.”
A city spokesperson said this weekend the Ongiara, a small ferry that services Ward Island passengers and cars, was out of commission for “mechanical issues.” But, the spokesperson said, the three larger passenger ferries were operating at full capacity “with extra continuous trips added to the schedule.”
While Mihevc recommended visiting the islands at off-peak hours to avoid the crush, the Toronto Island Community Association said there is nothing new about delays for the city’s ferry fleet.
“It should have been a wonderful day trip for many to this beautiful and popular destination but with the age, capacity and condition of the current fleet, the City’s infrastructure struggled to serve its citizens and visitors,” association co-chair Caroline Van Der Drift said in an email.
“Our own experiences with ferry operation reinforce this view,” Van Der Drift said.
“The current fleet dates back to the 1960s and earlier and this weekend’s breakdown of one of four ferries highlighted the urgent need for new ferries to service all island visitors,” she said.
“More needs to be done now to improve the service.”
The Toronto Island Master Plan, scheduled for release this summer, heard from Torontonians who want more ferries and other improvements to the service. Experts have said that additional ferries would require more infrastructure so those new boats have a place to dock, otherwise the wait times will continue.
Other Toronto residents want a bridge from the mainland to the island and last January, a staff report going to the city’s general government and licensing committee recommended replacing four existing ferry vessels over the next 15 years, with the first two electric vehicles going into service in 2024
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