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In transit

Pique takes its own assessment of Whistler's bus system one sunny Friday morning



Well, if they're not going to do it then we will.

As part of its review of Whistler transit, BC Transit is examining all current routes to see what's working and what's not, what's needed where and what can be taken away.

BC Transit still has yet to do its origin destination and onboard passenger surveys to assess the needs of the community - those will happen in 2011 - so Pique decided to go ahead and do it first, by riding the bus from Function to the furthest point in Emerald Estates in order to see what types of people are riding and how satisfied some of them may be with the level of service.

Well, for one thing, you have to wait for it. On this particular Friday the sky's as smooth as crystal and the cold air nips at the ears only slightly, so it's tolerable, if not pleasurable while gazing at the snow-capped mountain peaks. But if the clouds roll over and if they're low enough in the valley that the water particles soak your clothes, it's a completely different story. And when the bus finally comes, you actually have to ride the thing.

At 10:20 a.m., the #2 Whistler Creek bus arrives at Pique 's Function Junction office - the last stop on its southbound route. There are only three riders onboard - an older gentlemen clumsily concealing a can of beer between his thighs with an issue of The Province and a lady who appears to be in her early 20s.

By 10:36 on this Friday morning, the bus is packed. People standing shoulder to shoulder by the time it reaches Nordic. The passengers are a variety of ages, with the majority in their 20s. Half the people here have snowboards or skis, taking up precious elbow and breathing room. Passengers are crowded at the front of the bus.

There are so many people, in fact, that six people are left at the Alta Vista bus stop for lack of room, having to wait another 20 minutes for the next bus with no guarantee they'll even get on. At Blueberry, someone rings the "Stop Request" bell for the first time this trip. It reeks of human sweat and unwashed laundry. Based on the accents darting around from all angles of the bus you'd think you were in New South Wales, if it weren't for the blanket of snow outside and all the toques inside.

BC Transit has counted about 2.7 million riders so far in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, which is up from the year before. The number of passengers does fluctuate throughout the year, with summer and shoulder season ridership averaging between 5,000 and 6,000 per day, historically. Winter averages from years past are between 17,000 and 20,000.