Toronto Island ferries, docked along the waterfront, are still serving passengers with regular runs across the harbour. Most have operated since the 1930s.

Island ferries in need of replacement

Sandy Krzyzanowski can’t see the Toronto Islands skyline without them.

“It breaks my heart to even think that they would consider replacing them, because those ferries are incredibly beautiful,” she said. “You look at the lake and the horizon, and the city skyline through that space…I’ve lived here for 40 years, and I still think it’s one of the most beautiful things ever to look at.”

The Toronto Island ferries – William Inglis, Sam McBride and Thomas Rennie – have served the public since 1935, 1939 and 1958 respectively. But a new “fleet replacement strategy” may bring their service to the islands to an end. According to the Toronto Star, the the city’s Parks, Forestry, and Recreation division is annually putting aside $250,000 to $1 million to replace the fleet.

Krzyzanowski lives on Ward Island and regularly travels on the harbour ferries and she said she appreciates the sophistication and beauty of their design.

“It’s very seldom replicated these days,” she said.

Beautiful or not, the Thomas Rennie and Sam McBride have already had their capacity load lowered to 736 passengers from the original 974 in order to comply with new Transport Canada safety standards.

James Dann, Toronto’s waterfront parks manager, said that because so many people use the ferries to get to the islands, he could see the old ferries being removed from service.

“We could recommend that new vessels be acquired in future years,” he said.

According to Dann, it would take two to three years to obtain one new ferry, but until then, the old ferries are safe. Once new ferries are brought in, the old ones would be sold. One new ferry costs around $8 million.

Ward Island resident Frances Ford doesn’t see a need to replace the fleet at all.

“I think they’re historic and iconic vessels that are very representative of Toronto,” she said. “I think they (fulfill) the purpose of transporting people from the city to the island.”

But Gordon Champion, who helped refurbish the ferry Trillium in the 1970s, said the sentimental value of the fleet should not be put ahead of practical needs.

“In my case, I’m more attached to it (the fleet) than anybody in the world. But I’m also a professional engineer, and I’m realistic,” Champion said. He added spending large sums of money on refurbishing the “old, worn-out ships” every year would be “ridiculous.”