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Buses the solution to transportation needs

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Rail isn’t the long-term answer to transportation issues in the Sea to Sky corridor.

According to a series of studies, including three done for the province and one which six organizations funded, including the Resort Municipality of Whistler, all indications point to buses as the primary alternative to the private automobile in the corridor.

"It’s sad news for many of us that rail doesn’t appear to be a viable option," Ken Melamed, acting mayor, said Monday.

A study done by TSi Consultants found annual trips between the Sea to Sky corridor and the Lower Mainland will increase from 11 million in 2002 to 17 million by 2025, and that automobile traffic will routinely exceed Highway 99’s current capacity by 2007.

It also found that residents of the corridor and the Lower Mainland account for 83 per cent of the total travel demand, and that 93 per cent of those 11 million trips are in automobiles. Buses account for 6 per cent and B.C. Rail passenger service carries only about 1 per cent of the 11 million annual trips.

The study was commissioned as part of Whistler council’s wish to examine the viability of enhanced rail service to Whistler. A rail task team, which included representatives from Transport Canada, B.C. Rail, Translink, the Ministry of Transportation, West Coast Express and the RMOW, shared the cost of the study.

Three other studies done by the province – on high-speed rail, alternate highway routes, and a passenger-only ferry between Vancouver and Squamish – also showed there was minimal interest in rail, and strong interest in enhanced bus service and ferry service.

However, the findings don’t rule out using rail to move people if the 2010 Olympics are awarded to Vancouver and Whistler.

"This will guide what we do but the province is doing their roll out of all the combinations in transportation and that is very timely for us," said Sam Corea, spokesman for the Vancouver-Whistler 2010 Bid Corporation.

"We still need to have as much route diversity as possible so rail is there, and with what is there, we can still do something with it.

"We have to use every way of getting there (Whistler). We have to be flexible. And also, the rail option may not be the best people move option, but it may be the most attractive option as far as having an experience.

"So rail is most definitely not ruled out at all. You may not be able to move the bulk of the people but you can move some people in addition to what is happening on the road and in addition to what is happening on the waterways."

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