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Whistler loves its buses 8,000 riders in one day can't be wrong By Chris Woodall Whistler bus riders love their buses more than anyone in the province. More trips were taken in one day than on any other bus system in B.C., excluding Vancouver and Victoria. The day in particular was Tuesday, March 17. B.C. Transit does an annual survey of ridership, picking one day within a two-week survey period to see how different systems "fare" against each other. "It established a record in the province for the highest ridership in a day," crows Whistler Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. "B.C. Transit is amazed at the amount of ridership we have." Rough figures from the two-week survey period indicated bus passengers took 20 per cent more trips this year than for the same two-week period last year. Bus fares are a factor in getting people on the buses, the survey found. Bus rides were free during this year's Earth Day, prompting 25 per cent more people to take the bus than the number of trips taken a week later when riders had to shell out their $1.50 a trip (adult fare). Even going to Blackcomb staff housing from the village can be affected by fare prices, Wilhelm-Morden says. The fare is 50 cents, but free trips offered during Earth Day got 36 per cent more riders on the up-mountain trip than the route gets normally. "That shows me that a 50 cent fare is a barrier for people who most need bus service," Wilhelm-Morden says of employees on tight budgets. In other transit news, surveys from Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates residents indicate separate routes would be popular. "It's common sense, but the surveys support that," Wilhelm-Morden says of avoiding the "scenic tour" riders get on the Alpine-Emerald trip. Only 115 surveys came back to Whistler Transit. "It wasn't a stellar response," admits Wilhelm-Morden of the door-to-door delivery of the survey. But it was enough to indicate trends of thought. One surprise out of the survey is that people will walk a distance to the bus stop if they know buses will come frequently. People don't want to see buses go deeper into a subdivision to provide greater service, Wilhelm-Morden says. "They want faster, more efficient service." Four more buses will be added to Whistler Transit in November, the greatest single increase in the fleet since service started. Five full-time jobs will be created as a result. "We're just starting to discuss how we'll use them," Wilhelm-Morden says of the new wheels. "It's always been part of the plan (to add the buses), but it reflects the popularity of the bus system." Potential use of the new buses is to increase Creekside-Village service, and split the Alpine-Emerald route. As for the late-night midnight-3 a.m. service recently put in place, it has proved a winner. "It's quite remarkable," Wilhelm-Morden says of the post-midnight ridership. But although there has been some talk of having buses go 24 hours a day, Wilhelm-Morden says taking those hours from 3-6 a.m. and applying them to peak travel times seems the better idea.

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