A local businessman hopes to make the trip between Pemberton and Whistler affordable, easy, and safe.
Mark Hunter owns and operates Pemberton Taxi, which currently holds five licenses, and runs from 6 a.m. until the bars close.
For years, Hunter has heard customers complain about the lack of transportation between Pemberton and Whistler. He examined schedules of all bus services between the towns, and discovered the last WAVE bus to Whistler leaves at 6:17 p.m., and the last returning to Pemberton is at 6:15 p.m. Greyhound’s last bus to Pemberton is at 9:40 p.m.
This limited service leaves many people, particularly employees in the food service industry, stuck.
“We’re getting into another ski season and with the accommodations all stretched out in Whistler, there’s more and more people down in Pemberton and there’s been more and more of a need to get something going in between,” Hunter explained.
He says the problem also impacts teenagers who may want to go see a movie in Whistler, or people who just want to party. The only option for these people to get back to Pemberton late at night is to take a cab, which costs between $50 and $60 one way.
After attending a recent public forum on the prevalence of drinking and driving in the area, Hunter realized the lack of public transportation was also probably contributing to drunk driving, and began looking for a solution.
He purchased a 24-passenger touring bus, and is proposing an evening shuttle service that would make runs between the two communities, at 8 p.m., 10 p.m., and midnight, and a fourth shuttle that would leave Whistler at 2 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
He plans to charge about $6 per person, which is close to the $5.85 Greyhound currently charges for the same trip.
“I want to keep it low for those employees,” Hunter explained. “They’re not in the wage bracket to pay for larger fares.”
Hunter says the service provided by Greyhound and WAVE during the day is adequate, but he hopes his proposed service would help workers who commute to Whistler, while at the same time eliminating a common excuse for drunk driving.
So far, his idea has received a good reaction from the public and local government.
“Everybody is concerned about it, and everybody would like to see it,” said Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy. “There’s no question that there is lots of community support.”
Hunter is currently in the process of applying to the provincial Passenger Transportation Commission for approval of this new service, and says he doesn’t anticipate encountering much opposition, as the scheduled shuttles wouldn’t coincide with any offered by the competition. He plans to submit his application this week, and is hoping the service could be up and running as early as December.
The typical turnaround time for these applications is approximately two months, but Hunter hopes to speed up the process by getting the community behind the idea.
“I could see it happening quite easily with a lot of support,” Hunter said.
The Village of Pemberton council has already written a letter to support his application.
“We recognize that there’s certainly a need for additional transit in the Valley,” said Sturdy. “… We’re very supportive of any additional transit service, especially for those nighttime ones where people can’t get home from Whistler after the bar closes.”
Hunter plans to talk to the RCMP and MLA Joan McIntyre to ask for their support. He is asking people who would like to see the service to send letters of support, as well, so he can include them in his application package.