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Local leaders pledge to find transit links to Squamish



Wells hopes to use funds to start service by April 1

Kristi Wells, chair of Whistler’s Transit Management Committee, will be asking council for roughly $350,000 in the coming weeks to start up a public bus service between Squamish and Whistler.

A portion of the money will also go towards expansion of the current bus service connecting Mount Currie, Pemberton and Whistler, including more morning and late night runs.

"If we pushed it and pushed it, we could have it operational by April 1," Wells said this week after a Transit Management Committee meeting on Monday.

"We already have everything done on how it would work so it’s not logistical concerns. Right now it’s money concerns."

Wells is proposing that council take the money from the parking in lieu fund, which totals more than $1 million. That money came from Intrawest last year as a penalty for a parking shortfall at their new Pan Pacific Hotel. It has yet to be allocated to any project in the 10-year financial plan, said Wells.

"I think the community would love to see us use it for this kind of initiative," she said.

The $350,000 would go towards a short-term bus service over a two-year period, she said, while the transit committee works for a more long-term solution that would include a regional transportation service.

Commuter transit between Squamish and Whistler has been under the spotlight recently after a deadly crash on the Sea to Sky Highway on Jan. 31 left seven people dead, including five Whistler hotel workers.

The workers had finished the night shift early Saturday morning and were on their way home to Squamish when their car crashed with a northbound SUV, killing the two passengers in that car along with all the hotel workers.

At an emotional memorial service at the Telus Conference Centre at Whistler on Wednesday, Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland also pledged to bring public transit between the two communities.

"You have my commitment, along with Mayor (Hugh) O’Reilly from Whistler and B.C. Transit and the hotels, that we will find a way to have a commuter service for the communities that will work for everyone," said Sutherland.

"And it we can do that, and do it properly, that will be the legacy of the seven people who lost their lives on that Saturday."

Local governments aren’t the only ones looking at transportation options.

Kevin Toth, general manager of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, is one of a number of hoteliers who are considering establishing a task force to address this issue of employee transportation.

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