As an RMOW employee living in Squamish I rely on the #98 Bus to get to work. There are many personal reasons why I want the bus to remain in service but the reason Whistler needs to maintain this service is because it is used by Whistler people. It is also one of the accomplishments listed on the Whistler 2020 website. The #98 Bus is part of what Whistler 2020 calls "inter-community mobility"; it is part of the existing "alternative transportation system to, from and within Whistler."
There is a significant difference between the Pemberton and Squamish buses. As a daily rider I have given directions to many Whistler people arriving in Squamish. In addition to shopping destinations they are looking for Service BC, Service Canada, the hospital, the Stawamus Chief, mountain bike trails, Capilano University and other services and facilities not available in Whistler.
This bus has always been under-promoted. This summer was the first time it was listed in a Whistler bus schedule. When I mention it in Squamish, many have never heard of it and others assume that the "Commuter" is some sort of program requiring registration and payment in advance. They are surprised to find out that $5 cash can get them dropped off at the gondolas without driving, parking or walking.
I have watched the slow growth in ridership as people find out about this service. People in Whistler are increasingly using the #98. Whistler faces a chronic shortage of people with Early Childhood Education training. There are people who live and work in Whistler who use the #98 in the evening to study ECE at Capilano University in Squamish.
This is not a "Commuter" bus. It is the beginning of a regional transit system. If Whistler can provide a free shuttle for tourists then surely it can provide part of the funding for a system that serves its own people. The #98 bus needs to grow and develop to become an example of what inter-community bus service can be.
Whistler Transit and the RMOW can be the leaders in bringing together the other governments and service providers needed to make this system grow. The first step is to leave it alone. A 60 per cent fare increase will kill it. Find a funding agreement to maintain the existing service at current prices for 2011. Start with an outline then create a five-year plan for a Regional Inter-community Transit Service between Horseshoe Bay and Mount Currie.
Lower Mainland transit service extends to Lions Bay, why not Squamish? There is no bus service that can get you from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish or Whistler. There is no bus service from Whistler or Squamish that will get you to Vancouver much before noon. Take a look at a Whistler schedule and see how long it takes to go from Creekside to Meadow Park at various times of day. Number 98 and #99 buses are the beginning of a fabulous regional inter-community bus system. Don't be seen as the one who pulled the plug.