B.C. travellers urged to prepare for busy Canada Day long weekend

As British Columbians gear up to celebrate Canada Day, officials are urging the public to plan ahead and stay safe amid expected travel congestion on ferries, highways, and at airports.

For B.C. Ferries, the Canada Day long weekend marks the second busiest travel period of the year, surpassed only by B.C. Day.

"We feel fully prepared heading into the long weekend and we're looking forward to ensuring our customers get to their destinations safely and comfortably," said Reet Sidhu, the company's senior communications adviser, told CBC News on Friday.

She recommends passengers looking to take a ferry from Vancouver's Tsawwassen Bay to Victoria's Swartz Bay – one of B.C. Ferries' busiest routes – without a booking, consider travelling as a foot passenger to avoid sailing waits.

BC Ferries' senior communication advisor Reet Sidhu says the corporation is expecting half a million passengers travel through this Canada Day long weekend, making it the second busiest weekend for ferry travel.
B.C. Ferries' senior communication advisor Reet Sidhu says the company is expecting a half-million passengers this Canada Day long weekend, making it the second busiest weekend of the year for ferry travel. (Sohrab Sandhu/CBC)

B.C. Ferries says they're expecting close to 500,000 passengers on all routes Friday through Monday.

The company, which faced a number of challenges last year — from staffing shortages, last-minute cancellations and long waits — said they have increased sailings and made staffing changes this year around for a smooth summer travel experience.

Sidhu says B.C. Ferries has added 350 new sailings, including 44 between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay along with a new early morning sailing, and has hired 600 new staff for the summer.

It has also tightened its annual refit schedule in an effort to avoid cancellations during peak season. Refits refer to safety inspections and work on major parts, such as engines and brakes, that require a vessel to be pulled out of service, usually for 30 to 90 days.

YVR also busy

Long weekend preparations at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) also moved into high gear on Friday.

YVR communication specialist Emad Agahi says the airport is expected to see about 84,000 passengers for each day of the long weekend with Friday being the busiest day.

Travellers waiting in a departures lounge at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Nov. 5, 2022.
Vancouver International Airport is also gearing up for a busy weekend, with an estimated 335,000 travellers expected from June 28 through July 1. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

According to the airport authority, about 7.8 million passengers are expected to travel through the airport this summer — a 9.6 per cent increase compared to passenger levels last year during the same period.

Agahi says during peak travel times, staff will be stationed at information counters throughout the airport, and digital tools are also available to help people reach their gate on time.

High-risk driving behaviours amid heavy traffic

Elsewhere in the province, traffic enforcement will be stepped up across the province during the long weekend, according to B.C. Highway Patrol.

In a statement this week, B.C. Highway Patrol said it will be watching for impaired drivers, particularly around recreational areas and festivals where alcohol is served.

Penalties for impaired driving include 24-hour driving prohibitions, immediate driving prohibitions of three, 30, or 90 days with vehicle impoundment, and potential criminal charges.

Busy road traffic on Harvey Avenue near Gordon Drive in Kelowna, B.C., on Oct. 1, 2022.
On the roads, B.C. Highway Patrol will be vigilant in monitoring impaired drivers, especially near recreational areas and festivals. (Winston Szeto/CBC)

In an email to CBC News, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) said over Canada Day long weekend, on average, one person is killed and 176 injured in about 605 crashes in B.C. Speed and impairment were the top contributing factors in most of those crashes.

Passengers should exercise caution before travelling: province

Ahead of the Canada Day long weekend, the B.C. government issued a statement advising travellers to exercise caution and readiness due to heightened wildfire risks stemming from warm weather and drought conditions across many areas of the province.

It is urging travellers to stay informed about wildfire conditions, adhere to fire bans and restrictions, and check for updates on road closures, evacuation notices, and other restrictions, including B.C. Parks closures.

B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure is also asking motorists to anticipate additional traffic on the Trans-Canada Highway over the long weekend and to allow extra travel time.