Opinion » Editorial


Solving the corridor’s transportation problems has become a popular topic in recent weeks; first there was MLA David Mitchell weighing in with his plan for an alternate highway through Indian Arm, then last week MLA candidate Ted Nebbeling was promoting some form of commuter rail link to Transportation and Highways Minister Jackie Pement. While both proposals are sexy in the political sense, we humbly suggest that it’s going to be some time before any provincial government presents plans for, much less builds, any alternative to the present Highway 99. Some interim solutions are going to be needed. Whistler — without a grid system of streets — experienced grid-lock last Christmas. The volume of cars coming into town in the morning and leaving in the afternoon was just too much for the highway. But the Ministry of Transportation and Highways already has several multi-million dollar commitments — a third crossing of Burrard Inlet, the Island Highway, a new highway in the Interior, new connections to the Alex Fraser Bridge, a fleet of new ferries and light rail rapid transit in the Lower Mainland — to live up to before it announces a new highway or rail system for the Sea to Sky Corridor. When you consider the overall financial position of the province the conclusion is that a new highway or rail system is probably a decade away. A commuter rail system makes more sense than a new or four-lane highway. According to the municipality’s resort monitoring program, more than 80 per cent of residents surveyed support the development of a commuter rail system. However, BC Rail passenger traffic between Whistler and North Vancouver has dropped 40 per cent from 1992 to 1994. BC Rail makes its money hauling freight and is only in the passenger business because the province says it has to be. The West Coast Express rail service between Mission and Vancouver is an example of the kind of rail link desired, but the West Coast Express was talked about for 10 years before it became a reality. Moreover, it has a large potential ridership arriving and departing at about the same time every week day. Although it is likely the best long-term solution, a corridor rail line would probably have to have much larger potential daily ridership than currently exists before anyone would put money behind it. In the interim, the cheapest, most flexible solution is to increase and promote the use of buses and car pools between Whistler and the Lower Mainland. It takes considerable convincing to get people to give up their cars, but it’s not impossible. In Colorado, the Vans to Vail service between Denver and Vail seemed to work well. Get the word out in the Lower Mainland that at peak periods like Christmas and Easter visitors — especially day skiers — would be better off leaving their cars behind. It’s not as exciting as a new highway or rail line, but it’s closer to reality.

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