BUSINESS BEAT: Ferry service expands without going public

Service likely to expand further as Seaspan ramps up operations in Esquimalt

Passengers head down the gangway to board the Grey Selkie

All it takes for Barry Hobbis to realize the value in his company’s Baseline commuter ferry service is to drive back to town from Colwood during morning rush hour.

Hobbis, founder and vice-president of operations for the West Bay Marina-based Victoria Harbour Ferry Inc., has occasion to check on things at Baseline’s West Shore dock at D jetty on Department of National Defence land.

“It’s been bumper-to-bumper just trying to get back to my office downtown,” he says. “It still amazes me that that kind of traffic exists. And it continues to get worse.”

Baseline was introduced in May as a private venture, when CFB Esquimalt cancelled its Blue Boat shuttle for naval and Dockyard personnel who live on the West Shore. The company recently expanded its service to include Victoria Shipyards workers, instituting runs leaving Colwood at 5:40 and 5:50 a.m. to accommodate the early shifts.

Baseline’s daily passenger load has grown to more than 500, without being open to the general public. Currently, all passengers must have DND security clearance.

“Studies have shown that 48 per cent of (base and shipyards workers) live on the West Shore,” Hobbis says.

Of the company’s three 40-passenger boats, two operate continually and the third is used when the demand calls for it. That has been more often lately, as the popularity of the service grows. With Seaspan due to ramp up its operations soon at the Esquimalt Graving Dock, more capacity will be needed, Hobbis says.

“We have to be very aware of capacity,” he says.

“The last thing we want to do is leave people standing on the dock.”

The company has been actively looking for a larger boat for the past six months, in places as far flung as Texas and Greece. “They’re everywhere,” Hobbis says.

While the Colwood Crawl – a more appropriate name today might be the West Shore Wait – continues to fuel calls for light rail and other forms of rapid transit, the success of the water commuter service makes more and more sense, he adds.

“In terms of future transportation modes, I think we’ll recognize even more so that water is the way to travel when you live on an Island,” Hobbis says.

Victoria Harbour Ferry is also among the groups looking into possible commuter service from the Royal Bay development in Colwood to downtown Victoria.

Hobbis says cities such as New York, Boston and Seattle are recognizing that using the water to create “connecting points” for commuters can work well to reduce congestion on the roads.

Island auto veterans make inroads in Victoria

After finalizing the purchase of long-time Victoria dealer Ensign Chrysler in the summer, the Harris family has made its presence known more visibly on its lot at the corner of Cook and Yates streets with new window signage.

Harris Auto Group, known more for its up-Island dealerships across many name plates, and locally, for its cellular phone business, purchased its first Chrysler Dodge Jeep operation in July. The dealership is run by general manager Dave Meyerink. Find them online at chryslerdodgejeepramvictoriadealer.ca.

Seniors care firm ramps up care for December

As a way of giving back to the community, Janie Apostolakos and her staff at Luxcare Lifestyle are this month volunteering one hour per senior – to a total of 50 hours – to assist with Christmas shopping, decorating, writing Christmas cards, gift wrapping, cooking, party planning or simple companionship. Call 250-590-1689 if you or someone you love could use a little Christmas help. Names are being taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visit Luxcare at luxcarelifestyle.com.

Names in the business news around Greater Victoria

After 16 years with Frontrunners Footwear, Mark Nelson has parted company with the locally owned specialty running store to operate and run Race Day Timing Services and RaceOnline Registrations. He sold his shares in Frontrunners Westshore to business partner Nick Walker, and bought Walker out of his position in the other two companies … Local public relations firm Trapeze Communications has added staff to meet growing demand. New permanent staff include senior art director Laura Prpich, account planner Marc Coderre and production artist/graphic designer Jennie Dixon.

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