In fall of 2011, the Whistler and Valley Express was forced to adjust service levels to reflect growing costs, resulting in a complete review of services and schedules to meet the new reality. The result was a 15.1 per cent decline in service hours (75,000 to 68,000), a seven per cent decline in revenues and an 11 per cent decline in ridership. However, the number of rides per hour (41 in 2010-2011) did increase with fewer buses on the road, with an average of 43 riders or an increase in five per cent.
When asked this week, the municipality said that they were not anticipating any cutbacks to service this winter, and that stakeholders in the service (BC Transit, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Transit Ltd.) would work together to monitor the performance of the system and decide where to allocate the additional 2,000 hours of service they will be providing above what was used to set the schedule. Those additional hours will be announced at tonight's (Nov. 6) council meeting.
There will be two schedules this winter. The early winter schedule gets underway on Nov. 17, and the full winter schedule will follow four weeks later on Dec. 13.
Some of the announced service changes will resolve issues faced by riders last winter, including the return of bus service to Blueberry Hill, the routing of additional buses to Function Junction and Emerald Estates, and the fact that all Valley Connector service will continue stop at the Gondola Transit Exchange - unlike the start of last winter, where riders boarding the Valley Connector would have to get off in the village and either walk or take the Village Shuttle to the ski lifts.
Early winter schedule highlights:
¥ WAVE will adjust, restart or ramp-up service to Spruce Grove/White Gold, south Whistler (Whistler Creek, Tamarisk, Cheakamus Crossing, Function Junction), Blueberry Hill and morning service through Alta Vista.
¥ The express service will resume to Whistler Creek only.
¥ The free winter Village Shuttle returns, including the #4 Marketplace Shuttle and the #5 Upper Village/Benchlands Shuttle.
¥ Additional buses and services will be on the road through the American Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 22 to Nov. 25.
Full winter schedule highlights:
¥ All Valley Connector buses will be routed through the Gondola Transit Exchange. Northbound buses will stop at Post 3 at the exchange, and southbound buses will stop at Post 2.
¥ Full winter service will be offered on all routes with no further ramp-ups planned (although there could be changes as a result of the 2,000 increased service hours).
¥ Weekend levels of service will now include Fridays and holiday Mondays (both Canadian and American).
¥ Additional late night services will be added to handle heavy passenger loads.
¥ Routes 1, 2 and 3 will be combined in the Rider's Guide to make it easier to understand routes and options.