Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Mmmm... donuts



So, I'm thinking about two not entirely unrelated things. The first is my neighbourhood of Creekside and the winter nightmare that London Lane has become. Originally a simple off-highway loop servicing a small Whistler Mountain base-area parking lot, the past decade has seen serious infrastructure and concomitant traffic build-up here.

First came the welcome commercial draw of Creekside market and Franz's stroll, with a serviceable above-ground, short-term lot and an underground parking structure for a shit-ton of cars that was hardly ever filled as most visitors flowed past toward the more substantive parking and mountain choice offered by the village. It was never hard to access anything, or make a turn off my street (Gondola Way) left toward the highway or right toward the village even on the busiest days.

Flash forward a decade to what now happens on any weekend day in high season: Instagram-worthy human and traffic gridlock that no one in power seems to talk about let alone acknowledge, the delays so insidious and counterintuitive that any urban planner responsible for the design has likely already stricken it from their résumé. It's bad enough that no one who lives here wants to get in their car to brave it between the hours of 3 – 5 p.m.; inhibiting trips to the village for everything from shopping to meeting friends for après. To do so risks sitting at a dead standstill on a 200-metre loop for up to half an hour as the massive, overflowing parking garage and an elementary school's worth of Whistler Kids empties at both ends, backing up into its recesses as the majority of vehicles head toward the dreaded left-hander to Vancouver.

It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the glut of buses in the loop at the exact same time — Greyhounds and Pacific Coast Lines heading north and south, tour buses disgorging and loading passengers at Legends, and transit buses trying to pick up reams of passengers. Some try to avoid this disaster by heading down London toward the village then pulling an aggressive and dangerous U-turn on the highway into a long line of stop-and-go traffic heading out of town.

A big powder day doubles down on the chaos and confusion with tighter traffic foul-ups and human-jams to boot; if that powder day is midweek you can now count on the same kind of thing where this was never the case in the past. Who or what is to blame for this unwelcome addition to a poor customer experience?

Well, I'll refrain from the former in favour of the obvious latter and let those who would, figure it out. To start, the pay-parking debacle in the village has driven (ha ha) a huge increase in vehicles parking at Creekside, further exacerbated by the newfound ease of getting over to Blackcomb via the Peak 2 Peak Gondola. Then there's an unavoidable increase in end-of-day bus traffic because that's when people want to get in and get out of town. And finally we can add in the powder-starvation frenzy driven by changes that have made fresh tracks a thing of the past unless you're there when the bell rings (another factor pointed to, down this way, is the slower avalanche control on Whistler, and waiting for lift openings is keeping people on the mountain longer when they'd normally be on and off in the first few hours).

You can't blame the drivers/skiers/boarders involved in any of this. They're already paying good money to be here and want the goods to be good and cost as little extra as possible (looking your way, parking). Thus, regardless of to what degree this might all be obviated by better planning and/or more forward thinking about the all-too apparent factors driving congestion in the area, it's mostly a case of understanding human nature.

Fine. Now here's the other thing I'm thinking about: all the times that I've been in similarly sized small towns in Canada and experienced a horrendous line of traffic spilling inexplicably out into a main street, even onto the Trans-Canada Highway, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., because... well, people insist on picking up their diabetes-inducing Tim Hortons double-double and unsustainable palm-oil cooked, whining-child-placating Tim Bits (wait — didn't the founder die in a horrendous solo car wreck that essentially left bits of Tim all over southern Ontario's QEW? But I digress...). Even without a drive-through concession, all people need to see is a Tim Hortons sign anywhere along a highway and part of their brain is immediately unplugged and replaced with a module blinking "Must... have... Timmy Ho's... for the road." And while this applies to Canadians of all stripes, imagine the kind of touchstone it represents to people from, say, Saskatchewan. Just like going home, if only for a few minutes.

It's human nature, again. Which makes the idea of putting a franchise of this behemoth, even a 10-seater, on a place like London Lane absurd in the extreme.

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