Earlier this week, we questioned what ever happened to the City of Toronto’s plan to put a fancy new fleet of ferries on the water.
Triggering the question was the logistical nightmare that ensued last weekend when masses of Toronto Islands goers found themselves in lineups that were hundreds upon hundreds of people deep for water taxis.
While the situation was undoubtedly compounded by the pandemic -- reflected in everything from capacity and schedule restrictions on the ferries to countless stir-crazy residents -- getting to and from the beloved Toronto Islands has been an issue for years.
But new ferries could help. And apparently, at least one of them could be a reality by 2024.
STOREYS has learned that plans for the new ferries are alive and well. According to Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the City of Toronto is prioritizing replacing the current ferry fleet to ensure reliable, high-quality, and safe transportation to and from Toronto Islands.
In other words, a frustrating journey across the lake on both ends of your visit will (hopefully) no longer characterize the Toronto Islands-going experience on a sunny summer weekend.
The City says its commitments include improving customer service and transportation outcomes by providing new and more accessible vessels; maintaining and improving winter access to the island; maintaining or surpassing current service levels; improving the efficiency of operations and limiting unexpected changes to ferry schedules due to maintenance; and incorporating new technologies into the vessels, including green design elements where possible.
The plan includes the staggered replacement of four vessels in total over a 15-year period, with the intent of advancing orders in 2022.
The ferry designs have been finalized and class approved. Features include capacity for 1,300 passengers (for passenger only) or 650 passengers + 14 cars, a length of 49.4 metres, and a hybrid design (diesel and electric).
The City says it’s actively working to put in place the pieces needed to proceed with construction, including confirming the cost estimates with additional input from international industry experts, reviewing the replacement plan in the context of newly released marine use strategy, and ensuring the budget is put in place prior to going to market.
The expected project timeline includes a review of the procurement approach and budget to be completed this year, with the construction tender to be issued in 2022 and the first delivered in 2024, however, this is subject to change due to market conditions. So, while the goal is to see the first ferry delivered in 2024, the City says it's too early to confirm.
While it’s undoubtedly sad to part with the current ferries in all of their charming and nostalgic glory, the reality is that Toronto's growing density means we need to adapt and get with the times. Especially when the pandemic has left city residents craving all the outdoor space they can get.