toronto island ferry

Toronto Island ferries were so packed this weekend people were turned away

Toronto was just treated to a final taste of tolerable weather before the inevitable six months of shivering, beige-ish slush and salt-stained footwear hits, and many were out enjoying the combination of mild weather and spectacular fall colours this past weekend.

But some who attempted to visit Toronto Island to enjoy this warm weather farewell tour instead got a rude surprise, with many passengers forced to wait upwards of an hour, and some even turned away from the ferry due to a recent change in service.

Those who were lucky enough to get a spot had to deal with cramped conditions, as it seems that just about everyone had the simultaneous idea to visit the islands.

Long lines, cramped ferry rides, and even passengers told to try again on another day are the apparent results of the city's seasonal ferry schedules switching in mid-October.

According to the City of Toronto's ferry schedule page, the 2022 winter schedule started on October 11, during which time a single ferry operates service between the city-side terminal and the Ward's Island ferry dock.

A City representative tells blogTO that "This schedule operates under the assumption that favourable weather conditions — and the associated crowds — typically wane off by this point in the year, though it doesn't exactly maintain any provisions for a stretch of unseasonably warm, late October weather."

"In mid-October, the ferry service transporting passengers to and from Toronto Island Park switches to its off-season schedule until warmer weather returns in the spring. This timing is based on the seasonal drop in passenger numbers once summer has ended and attractions such as Centreville close."

"On a sunny weekend in August, passenger numbers can reach 20,000 in a single day, whereas in October this is closer to 1,500."

Photos of overcrowded ferries on Sunday morning appeared to get the attention of city staff, and by afternoon, the single-deck Windmill Point ferry — which is only capable of carrying just over 200 passengers — was replaced with one of the larger ferries in the fleet.

According to the city, "unseasonably warm weather saw higher numbers of passengers making the trip to Toronto Island Park, and although demand was higher than a typical October weekend," though the representative insists that, despite social media reports, "passengers were not turned away and more than 7,000 passengers were transported to and from the islands."

"In response to the higher demand, staff activated the largest passenger ferry, the Thomas Rennie."

"For the off-season schedule, the Ongiara, a vehicle and passenger ferry, transports passengers to Ward’s Island only. The City’s ferry service carries more than 1.4 million passengers annually on its four primary ferry vessels with a combined capacity of about 2,400 passengers."

Toronto ferry service to the islands will remain limited throughout the fall and winter before resuming full service when the warm weather arrives in 2023.

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