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Function bus service back to normal in November

Proposed updates to transit system will be presented next month



Jennifer Sillano is annoyed because she's having problems getting to work.

The Number 2 bus connecting Whistler Village to Function Junction used to roll through the latter neighbourhood every half hour, but since Labour Day service has been split between Cheakamus Crossing and Function. Service every half hour can no longer be depended on, and unless she looks at the schedule (which she has learned to do) the frequency of buses seems wildly sporadic.

"The other day, I had to get to work early for 7 (p.m.) and there were no buses for two hours," she said. "There was nothing to get me to work for 7, from like 5 p.m. to 7 p.m."

The final bus of the evening rolls through Cheakamus Crossing and so she has to leave work early some nights in order to catch the last bus to Function Junction - no easy feat for people working in nightclubs. If she didn't she'd have to walk from the first stop on Legacy Way in Cheakamus Crossing, with few streetlamps lighting her path and Lord knows how many bears lurking behind the trees.

Nor is Sillano the only person negatively affected by this splintered service, but they need not fret for too much longer. Beginning Nov. 25, there will be two separate lines serving each neighbourhood: The Number 1 Creekside Express will serve Cheakamus Crossing and the Number 2 Whistler Creek will resume its original route through Function Junction.

Emma Dal Santo, traffic demand management coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, said that the fractured service is merely a step toward how the schedule will be working in the future.

"We know that introducing a new service in a new neighbourhood, you never get it right the first time," she said.

BC Transit decided against rolling out a new service midway through the year and chose instead to split service between the two neighbourhoods - much to the chagrin of those who use it.

"We've sat there waiting for the bus and ended up hitchhiking because there's no bus. It's stuff like that," Sillano said. "I'm pretty annoyed about it, and I'm mostly annoyed that it used to come here and now it doesn't."

According to the RMOW's five-year financial plan, the Creekside Express, formally a winter-only service, would be extended year-round to serve Cheakamus Crossing and will be an express service that will stop in Village, Whistler Creek, Spring Creek and Cheakamus Crossing.

There will also be a late-night winter-only connection between Cheakamus Crossing and Function Junction. The Number 1 will stop running after 9 p.m., so the Number 2 will connect the two neighbourhoods. Dal Santo said there is nothing similar on the schedule during the day.

Dal Santo said that the municipality has listened to these complaints and others that had come in over the summer and has been able to fix some of those problems. Service through Nordic on the Whistler Creek route has been improved, for example, but there's no word yet on whether service will be improved before the start of winter.

She said if people have complaints or suggestions for improvement they can send them via the Transit Service Feedback Page. The comments go through all three parts of the transit system - the municipality, the regional transit manager at BC Transit and to bus operator Whistler Transit LTD.

"Right now we're using all this information that's coming in to feed it into the transit review that BC Transit is doing for us," Dal Santo said.

Early winter service for the Number 1 Creekside express began on Oct. 16 from Village South, filling in some of the holes that Whistler transit had in the service.

"This is ramp up service," she said. "This is not fully where we want it to be."

BC transit is amidst a Whistler transit service review looking at overhauling a 20-year-old system that would be more practical to various neighbourhoods at present and in the future.

"We're not a small system anymore, we're not a large system," Dal Santo said. "The way that our system has grown is that it started off with five buses and we added more buses but the community has also grown in that time, and we've added new neighbourhoods."

When the bus system started, Rainbow didn't exist, Nicklaus North was just coming online, Spring Creek was non-existent and Cheakamus Crossing was but a glimmer in the eye of some visionary developer.

"The community has changed a lot in the last 20 years, and we've grown the system the best we could with the model that we had. And now BC transit is looking at it and going, 'OK, is this still the right model for the way that the community is?"

BC Transit will be presenting their updates on this review to council on Nov. 2. Dal Santo said the full review will be completed and some implementation of bus routes by next winter, but there will be some shorter term changes rolling out through 2011.