A new ruling from the Passenger Transportation Board (PTB) allows Greyhound Canada to cut service to certain communities across the province, and drastically cut back frequency along certain routes, if it sees fit.
The decision could have major repercussions for Sea to Sky residents — though Greyhound has stated there is no scheduled date to increase or reduce daily frequency along the Whistler-Pemberton and Whistler-Vancouver routes at this time.
For the Lil'wat Nation community of Mount Currie, the PTB ruling is devastating: Greyhound has been granted permission to cut off service to the First Nations community altogether.
According to Mount Currie employment counsellor Linnea Ward, the cuts will make it more difficult to secure employment for community members in Whistler. "Transportation is the most important thing for this area, especially for a job search," said Ward, noting that many in the community don't drive and rely on public transportation.
The cuts will also take away recreational opportunities, she said. "I used (Greyhound) to go to Whistler for some fun or to Vancouver to visit family and shop," she said. "Greyhound has definitely been helpful."
Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman is planning to fight the PTB's decision, saying that reliable transportation is among the town's most important priorities.
"I'm shocked by these cuts," he said. "I'm shocked that the PTB approved these cuts, and I hope the provincial government continues to work with us to fight this, because it's two major steps backwards, as far as I'm concerned."
Under the new rules, Greyhound will be permitted to cut back its service between Whistler and Pemberton to just two times in both directions per week — down from the previous minimum of seven.
The decision comes on the heels of cutbacks to the route that took effect in November and left Pemberton without a late-night transit option. There are currently three daily Greyhound trips from Whistler to Pemberton, at 11:15 a.m., 1:45 p.m., and 5:15 p.m.
The decision has led to renewed calls for better public transportation through the Sea to Sky corridor from the leaders of Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton, who are working in concert on the file.
As Pique reported in November, BC Transit has proposed to add two daily trips between Whistler and Pemberton to its existing services — but those aren't expected to be in place until 2019, after a governance and funding model is cemented with provincial and regional governments.
According to Richman, the funding model that's currently on the table is untenable, as it would be extremely costly for taxpayers. "The demand is there. But the funding model as it exists is too much," he said.
"Many of our residents look to Whistler for employment opportunities... and Whistler very much needs are residents to staff their businesses."
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden echoed Richman's concerns, adding that the PTB ruling will have a "negative impact" on resort employers.
"It's going to be very difficult for employees in the corridor to rely on Greyhound as a reliable option," she said.
The ruling underlines the importance of the ongoing collaboration with Victoria, and Whistler's regional partners, added Wilhelm-Morden.
"The upshot of these cuts make it even more pressing for the province to work with us, our partners in the corridor, and BC Transit to deliver adequate public transit service in the corridor."
With a number of other private companies already servicing the Whistler-Vancouver corridor, riders are in in a better position to be able to get to and from the resort.
When asked to comment about the impact of the ruling on tourism, Tourism Whistler declined to comment, saying that it would be speculation at this point.
Peter Hamel, Greyhound's regional vice-president for Western Canada, in a statement sent to Pique, said: "This decision will allow Greyhound Canada the flexibility to increase or reduce runs between Vancouver and Whistler based on passenger demand. Sufficient notice will be given to our customers for planned route changes."