A subsidized employee bus pass could get more locals out of their cars and onto public transit if the current pilot program proves to be a success.
At the beginning of December the municipality launched the employee bus pass pilot program to test the waters among a group of resort employees.
Sixty-one people signed up for the four-month program where they paid for an unlimited bus pass costing just $80 for four months.
Among the guinea pigs are employees of Coast Mountain Photography and Rogers Chocolates as well as some residents in Beaver Flats, a Whistler Housing Authority building.
"We do have people that said they never had a bus pass before," said Emma DalSanto, Transportation Demand Management Planner with the RMOW.
A recent survey of Beaver Flats tenants showed that one-third would take transit more often if a subsidized pass was available. This survey also showed that the average weekly travel costs for tenants who drive alone is $92.50 per week, while the weekly transit costs are $17 per week. In the pilot program, the weekly transit costs are $5 per week.
Rather than creating a deficit with public transit, the subsidized pass could result in a transit profit as more and more people choose to ride the bus.
"In the feasibility study it says... that there would be no net loss and possibly in the future when it gets expanded more, there would actually be a net gain because you would have more people riding even though they would be paying a lot less," said DalSanto.
At the end of the pilot program, the volunteers will be asked to fill out a survey and rate how happy they were with the program and how often they used the bus.
Ultimately if the program is a success, the RMOW would like to offer the subsidized bus pass to all resort employees.
"Our long term goal is to make it available to the entire community eventually," said DalSanto.
In his presentation to council Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works, said that providing a discounted employee bus pass has long been discussed at the municipality. In all their research however, staff were unable to find another bus pass like this anywhere else.
"This would be a first," said Barnett.
If the pilot program is successful the employee bus pass program could be offered to more businesses in the fall and then expanded in the coming years.
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