Transit fares in Pemberton are expected to rise as the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District works to implement a six-month operating agreement with BC Transit.
The agreement came before the SLRD board for approval at its Monday meeting. The Annual Operating Agreement, a contract between the regional district, BC Transit and Whistler Transit Ltd., may well include a 50 per cent increase in fares for the commuter service, subject to the approval of the Village of Pemberton and the Mount Currie Band.
"I'm not entirely comfortable with the fare adjustments from the village's perspective," Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said at the meeting. "I can't speak with authority as to whether council's on side with those fare increases. We did touch on it at a committee of the whole meeting but have not debated it substantially and voted to support it."
The proposed fare increases are expected to see adult commuter fares go from $3 to $4.50; student/senior fares to go from $2.50 to $4; adult monthly passes to from $75 to $110; and student/senior monthly passes to go from $50 to $75.
The increases are also expected to see local transit fares go from $2 to $3 for adults; $1.75 to $2.50 for seniors and students; adult monthly local passes to go from $75 to $87; and senior/student monthly passes to go from $50 to $60.
The new fares are expected to begin on Nov. 25 but SLRD administrator Paul Edgington said it could wait to implement them on Jan. 1 to allow more time for comment. The board, fearing non-approval could jeopardize an agreement with BC Transit, conditionally approved the agreement subject to approval from Pemberton and Mount Currie. They're to be discussed at Pemberton council on Nov. 17.
The board also approved money to conduct hydrometric/hydrological stream flow monitoring for an independent power project (IPP) on Ferguson (Sucker) Creek. The board was initially asked to approve an additional $25,000 from the regional district's reserve fund.
Squamish Director Patricia Heintzman wondered whether that was too much money.
"I'm trying to figure out why, at this point, why we wouldn't have a joint venture with a private company and why we're taking on this expense," she said. "I'm wondering why we're spending this money now and not finding a different route, a private entity to absorb the costs we could partner with."
SLRD Strategy Planner Kim Needham said the regional district needs in-stream flow data before it can even decide whether it has a viable project. She said once it's determined that there's the ability to build a project, using data from a few seasons of monitoring, then the regional district can engage partners.
"There have been four different partners I've talked to who are interested in discussing this project with us," she said.
Heintzman later made a motion to amend the resolution to spend $17,000 on a feasibility study, rather than the $25,000. That motion passed, with Area A Director Russ Oakley and Area B Director Mickey Macri opposed.
The SLRD also approved a motion to direct the in-house preparation of terms of reference for an Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, an initiative that's projected to cost the regional district $175,000.
The plan, which is a condition of the 2005 federal/provincial/UBCM Federal Gas Tax Agreement, encourages communities to plan and implement actions that secure their "long-term well being," according to a news release from the provincial government.