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Changes coming to Valley Connector transit route

Redesign will separate route into north and south segments



After a lengthy review of the Whistler Transit System's Route 1 Valley Connector (VC), BC Transit and the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will move forward with a redesign of the route in an effort to make it more efficient.

Council approved the change at its July 18 meeting.

The redesign will separate the VC service into two segments north and south of Whistler Village.

"Some of the key reasons for this are to make it more clear what the bus is doing on any given trip, because currently we're looking at about 10 different routing variations in the south and eight in the north," said Levi Megenbir, senior transit planner with BC Transit, in a presentation to council.

"So we're looking to sort of simplify the presentation of the network and the ease of access, and the other thing we're looking to do is to improve transit connections within Whistler Village itself."

The route as it's currently designed features about 18 different routing variations spread between north and south segments, "which makes it reasonably challenging to communicate to customers in terms of exactly what the bus is doing on any given route," Megenbir said.

Though the route's original vision was to provide a consistent "one-seat" journey up and down the Whistler corridor, only about 60 per cent of the trips are currently providing that option, and only about 3.3 per cent of total ridership is using it, Megenbir said.

Since being implemented in 2011, the route has presented challenges for BC Transit and its riders, especially as traffic congestion has grown in Whistler.

"What we've been finding is that traffic impacts in the south are causing on-time performance issues both in the south (and) in the north," Megenbir said. "Often we're finding that trips have to be cancelled or are substantially behind time in the north due to those impacts."

With the restructure, the south segments will be serviced by three routes: the 20 and 20X, which provide service between Cheakamus, Function Junction, Creekside and Whistler Village (the 20X being an express route that skips Nordic), and the 21 Spring Creek, which provides direct service between Spring Creek, Creekside and the village.

"One thing to note here is that we are proposing the removal of the service into Tamarisk," Megenbir said, noting that there is now a pedestrian crossing and highway bus stop nearby.

There are also three routes proposed for north of the village: Route 30 Emerald via Alpine, which hits all the major stops to the north including Nesters, the Meadow Park Sports Centre, Alpine, Rainbow and Emerald; Route 31 (a more direct service between Alpine and the village); and the Route 32 Emerald, which provides a more direct connection for residents of Emerald and Rainbow by skipping Alpine.

With regard to the north-south connection, BC Transit is looking to improve transfers within the village, Megenbir said, and is also proposing a "10 Valley Express" route.

"It would provide service for Emerald Estates in the north in the morning down to Function Junction, and hitting a number of communities in between," he said.

BC Transit is recommending more study (and potentially more highway bus stops) before implementing the 10 Valley Express.

The RMOW and BC Transit will conduct a pilot project of the route prior to full implementation.

The changes are cost-neutral, and will be implemented this winter.