April 17 marks the beginning of cruise-ship season in Victoria, a year which will break records for both total visits and the number of passengers.
But more than just higher numbers, the season will also see cruise ships in port five evenings a week for the first time. For some residents of James Bay, that means little respite from the noise of highway buses running by their houses, some nights until almost midnight.
“If you happen to live in James Bay, the fact that those ships are (departing) in the evening mean that you get very large numbers of heavy bus traffic in the late-evening hours,” said resident Brian Scarfe, a sessional lecturer in economics at the University of Victoria who has studied the local costs and benefits of the cruise industry.
Every ship brings roughly 384 vehicle movements and 42 highway bus movements down Dallas Road, he said. “The disturbance is huge.”
Traditionally, evening arrival and departures have only taken place Thursday through Saturday. Those are still the heaviest nights for cruise traffic, but in the last two years, the Carnival Spirit and Disney cruise lines have added Sunday and Monday to the evening roster.
“We’ve got, more than ever, ships that are only here in the evening, and that means always less than six hours,” Scarfe said. “The economics (are) stupid, because quite frankly, people spend more money if (their ship is) here for 12 hours in the daytime than for (a few) hours at night.”
This summer, the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority will conduct a passenger survey to determine tourist spending patterns in Victoria. It is also working on a plan to mitigate James Bay’s traffic woes.
That means encouraging more passengers to walk and take pedicabs or horse-drawn carriages, said harbour authority CEO Curtis Grad.
He is also exploring the feasibility of a water shuttle to the downtown.
If the GVHA builds a dock for such a purpose, it could share it with whale-watching companies.
That would eliminate the need to bus the whale-watching tourists from Ogden Point to the Inner Harbour to start their boat tour, Grad said.
As well as encouraging alternate transit modes, the harbour authority is also looking to the market for buses that impact the environment less. In 2013, the contract for pick-up rights with the current bus operator expires.
“When we set up a proposal call, we’ll be looking at performance standards,” said Grad, noting that those include noise and air emissions.
Cruise visits by the numbers
2012 — 229 ships
2011 — 206
2010 — 219
2009 — 220
2008 — 201
2007 — 163
2005 — 182
2004 — 142