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Grounded buses cause delays in service

New schedule provides extended service, Squamish Commuter to run through summer

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It’s been a tumultuous start to the spring for local transit authorities, starting with B.C. Transit removing a dozen Whistler and Valley Express buses from the road after an axel broke due to corrosion.

B.C. Transit sent eight additional buses to Whistler to help out until replacement radius rods could be installed on the grounded Orion II buses, but the decision last week by the provincial authority did cause delays over the weekend, as well as early into the week.

Whistler Transit, which manages the Whistler and Valley Express (WAVE) bus service, received the replacement parts on Tuesday and expects to get the buses back on the road by this weekend.

“It was a call made by B.C. transit, which owns the buses,” said Brian Barnett, general manager of development services and environmental projects for the Resort Municipality of Whistler. “There was a mechanical problem and Whistler Transit contacted B.C. Transit, and they’re dealing with it. It wasn’t a public safety risk, but it was necessary to prevent against buses breaking down.”

The Whistler and Valley Express also switched to their spring, summer and fall schedule on Monday, with additional service made possible by additional funding from B.C. Transit. Most significantly, B.C. Transit will continue to provide 47 per cent of funding for the Whistler-Squamish commuter bus through the summer schedule, if the RMOW and District of Squamish councils vote to extend their funding.

The buses are still on the road until the municipalities can reach a decision on the service. The issue will be brought to Whistler council at their May 5 meeting.

Emma DalSanto, traffic demand management coordinator for the RMOW, says getting the support of B.C. Transit was a major step for the service. The commuter was launched as a pilot project in 2005 with funding from Whistler and Squamish, and grants from the province. This was the first year that B.C. Transit provided funding.

“We’ve asked them for years if they would consider expansion funding for the service, and this year they came through for funding through the winter and said they can potentially fund the commuter year-round,” DalSanto said. “Now it’s up to us and what we decide we want to do.”

According to DalSanto, they’ve conducted surveys of riders the past two years and more than 80 per cent of people riding the commuter said they would continue to use the service through the summer. The transit services are also doing rider counts with every trip, and the result will be presented to council on May 5.

While the same number of trips will be made between Whistler and Squamish as during the winter, the schedule is being adjusted to reflect highway construction closures. DalSanto says a rough schedule is available, but it will likely be changed to provide better service.

Within Whistler, B.C. Transit also recently announced additional funding for WAVE, which is why paper copies of the schedule had to be reprinted and were not available at the close of the winter season.

WAVE will be reinstating the Alpine Only and Emerald Only buses in the morning, and winter service has been extended to the May long weekend for the Village Shuttle and Creekside Express buses. As well, there is funding to add four more hours of service to Tapley’s Farm through the evenings, with hourly service until midnight. Other adjustments are also being made.

“These are new services or services we had to cut when B.C. Transit was in its budget reduction mode, and we’ve asked them to bring back,” said DalSanto.

“The new schedules should be arriving at the end of the week, which is about a week later than we expected. The main reason was the expansion, and the need to get all that information in.”

In the meantime, the updated schedule is available online at www.busonline.ca, or by calling 604-932-4020. Printed copies are also being placed in bus shelters, and will be available at the Visitor Information Centre.

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