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More money, increased service, for local transit

Two new buses needed to meet requirements

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Whistler Transit is set to add 2,000 new service hours to its winter service.

The boost in funding and the extra hours are aimed at addressing overcrowding, improving service reliability and adding runs to Emerald Estates, among other things.

The money to pay for the additional hours comes from the $175,000 negotiated by the municipality last year.

At that time, BC Transit agreed to look for alternative funding arrangements to offset the refurbishment costs for 12 Dennis DART buses that are no longer used by the local transit system.

Transit will need two additional buses to meet the expanded service demand.

The boost in service hours comes two years after a 19 per cent reduction in annual service hours, a move in 2011 designed to cut costs, but which also significantly impacted service levels.

The recent changes to the system flow out of the 2013 monitoring program — a comprehensive analysis of the transit system in Whistler where more than 200 people responded online and more than 600 people were canvassed on the bus.

BC Transit is also going through a Fare Review, looking at the effectiveness of the transit system's current fare structure.

Staff has also asked for a budget request to build two new shelters in 2014.

RMOW investment income dips

The municipality's investment income dropped $222,000 for the six months ending June 30, 2013, with underperformance and decreasing market values of funds to blame.

Director of finance Ken Roggeman also gave a brief presentation as part of council's reports on Tuesday, noting that because of the unusual performance he preferred to give a verbal update too.

"Because it's a bit unusual, I did want to point that out (the loss)," he said.

Roggeman explained the decrease was due to underperformance and decreasing market values in the Renaissance Real Return and MFA Bond funds.

Short-term interest rates in bond markets have risen sharply.

"These rising rates have been the main driver of the negative returns for the months of May and June," wrote Roggeman in his report to council. "Short-term bonds are sensitive to changes in interest rates, meaning that the market value of the bonds fluctuate with the level of interest rates. Specifically, as interest rates rise, the price of bonds fall."

Over time, however, higher interest rates will allow investors a higher rate of return.

McDonald's sign breaks consensus

It's been a while since council had any dissenting votes at the table but there was no consensus to be found over a McDonald's sign this week.

"I didn't know this would be contentious," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.

In a four-to-two vote (Councillor Jayson Faulkner was absent), council cleared the way for a new location for the McDonalds' drive-thru sign at Marketplace.

With the existing sign destroyed, McDonald's has asked that a new sign be placed at the Marketplace entrance off Lorimer Road.

"I think we're on a slippery slope," said Councillor Roger McCarthy. "For one business, it doesn't matter who it is, to be getting preferential treatment... is a jump ahead of everybody else."

Councillor André Janyk was also very uneasy with the proposal, citing the letters of opposition from others in Marketplace.

Norm Brown, who owns a unit in the area, wrote: "My wife and I are strongly opposed. No additional traffic is justified, and McDonald's creates enough traffic that it presents a danger to anyone parking or walking in that area."

Both Janyk and McCarthy voted against.

But the mayor, whose legal office is in the same building as McDonald's, said the proposal made a lot of sense.

She said that McDonald's has the only drive-thru and by nature, when people are looking for drive-thrus they're in their cars, potentially creating a hazard.

The sign height is about one metre.

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