1,000,000 and counting on the buses Japan's Uchida is our big winner Photos and story Chris Woodall With ski boots slung over his shoulder, Shigeru Uchida stepped into history, becoming Whistler Transit's one millionth rider of the year, Monday morning, March 30. All set for a day on the slopes, the Japanese native earns a year's worth of travel on Whistler's buses, presented to him by Whistler Mayor Hugh O'Reilly at a Drifter Way bus stop on the Alpine-Emerald route at about 9:45 a.m. Uchida will also be sporting a unique T-shirt — "One Millionth Rider" — complete with municipal logo. Whistler Transit have been keeping a close watch on the number of riders it gets each year and alerted the mayor and appropriate news hounds that the metre was about to turn over for the 1997-98 season. Whistler Transit is one of the top two bus systems in B.C. in terms of popularity and cost recovery for the provincially-funded and privately-run bus system. Last year Whistler's buses logged 996,400 riders. Uchida has been in Whistler to ski for the past three months. He hails from Yokohama, Japan. He gave no indication of how long he intends to stay in Whistler. If Craig Ross hadn't been so careful to put his skis in the rack at the same bus stop as Uchida, Ross might have been Whistler Transit's one millionth rider. As it was, he had to settle for 1,000,001st place, earning a free month of bus riding and one of only two T-shirts "Celebrating Transit" from councillor and transit committee acting chair Ken Melamed. That seemed to please the red headed Ross as much as winning the big prize. Since he joined the Whistler family of residents in November, 1997, he has worked for Blackcomb Ski Patrol and The Escape Route. Kevin Koch mounted the fateful bus steps a couple stops before the big winner, but it was enough to make him the 999,999th rider. He also got a free monthly bus pass and the other "Celebrating Transit" T-shirt. Koch is a Blackcomb Mountain liftee from Vancouver who's been here eight months. Other riders on the history-making bus weren't left out of the fun as Whistler's deputy clerk Linda Manheim gave out single-ride bus tickets, foil-wrapped chocolate Easter eggs and logo-enhanced pens. Ridership is expected to pile on larger numbers with the re-introduction of electronic Trip Cards in about four weeks, and when Whistler Transit adds four more buses in November.