BC Transit is set to unveil a new bus route that is likely to come as positive news to people commuting between Whistler neighbourhoods.
The 10 Valley Express will bypass the village and Creekside and pick up at stops north and south of the Village (from Function Junction to Emerald) along Highway 99. By providing a direct line along the highway, the route will skip congested areas and save people from having to transfer buses.
"We are trying it out as a pilot to see what people think about it," said Jonathon Dyck, a spokesperson for BC Transit.
The pilot route—which will start on Saturday, Dec. 15—comes after online engagement that took place last spring in which Whistlerites were asked to give feedback on the proposed route.
According to Dyck, the responses were positive. "All of these changes are in response to feedback from customers, (which came) as part of the development of the Sea to Sky Transit Future Plan," he said.
Released in 2015, the plan describes and prioritizes infrastructure and investments needed to improve public transportation in the corridor.
"This was a piece where we listened and heard that there might be some changes that need to be made, and that this was something (the public would) like," said Dyck.
Dec. 15 also marks the first day of winter-service levels on all Whistler routes, bringing improved midday service on route 20X Cheakamus/Village and route 25 Whistler Creekside/Village, and more trips in the evening on Route 6 Tapley's/Blueberry.
The route isn't the only recent change to transit service in Whistler.
This summer, Whistler was one of seven communities to install NextRide technology.
The technology allows users to see where their bus is in real-time, and improves the accuracy of arrival times.
Dyck said that BC Transit has received positive feedback on the technology.
"The big thing with NextRide and its real-time information is that it gives people certainty about when their bus is going to arrive," said Dyck.
"We're pleased to see that people are using it, and that they're finding that it is a tool to see when their bus is coming."
The information is accessible on a smartphone or desktop computer; BC Transit has not released a smartphone application for it. That said, Dyck explained that the information is open source and is therefore available to third parties such as Google Maps to use.
As part of this summer's upgrade, BC Transit also enhanced the technology on buses, installing a system that displays and announces stops, which has improved "accessibility for the transit system," said Dyck.
In other transit news, Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton are still aiming to get a regional transit system—which will offer a public transportation service between Vancouver and Mount Currie—off the ground by fall 2019.
The stakeholder communities—along with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, Lil'wat Nation, and Squamish Nation—have formed a committee that will liaise directly with the province.
In a recent release, the stakeholders said that they are "working to put forward a funding model to the province that would see funding from riders, local and provincial governments, and a new motor-fuel tax to help offset the cost of the service."
The release goes on to say that in order to reach the 2019 goal, the province must "approve a regional transit funding model, create a Regional Transit Commission and include a motor fuel tax in its February 2019 budget."
New coach company takes over YVR-Whistler route
A new coach company is now servicing Whistler, taking over the contract from Pacific Coach Lines.
Lindsay Moir, vice president of Universal Coach Line, confirmed that, as of Dec. 12, his company has assumed the service contract for the Vancouver International Airport-Whistler route, also known as the YVR Whistler SkyLynx. The contract term is for six years.
"We are very happy to be a part of (the community) and we value the relationships that we're going to forge," Moir said. "It's going to be a long-term relationship and we intend to be very supportive of the community."
In addition to the four daily trips to and from Whistler, Moir said Universal Coach Line would be introducing two new trips a day—an early-morning run to YVR, and a late-night run to Whistler. The service also includes a stop at the Squamish Adventure Centre.
With Greyhound pulling out of Western Canada this fall, Moir said the company has set its sights on the possibility of expanding its service to and from the resort.
"We're going to gauge the experience, and going forward, there's absolutely an intention to become a bigger presence," he said.
Ticket pricing will remain "approximately the same" as it was under Pacific Coach Lines, Moir said, and the company will continue to offer early-bird and locals' discounts. He also said that Universal Coach Line would honour any tickets that were purchased through Pacific Coach Lines prior to Dec. 12.