As of Tuesday afternoon a petition against a 400 per cent increase in bus fare to staff housing at Base II had more than 500 signatures, over 300 from Fairmont Chateau Whistler staff, and more than 200 from Whistler-Blackcomb staff in a fewer number of days.
Starting on June 1 the cost of a bus fare to staff housing jumped from 50 cents to $2, the standard fare for riding the Whistler and Valley Express. Many believe that’s too much, given the short length of the trip and the fact that the residents in employee housing represent some of the resort’s lowest paid staff.
“Basically what happened is they raised the fare from 50 cents to $2, while all the other bus routes in Whistler only went up 50 cents,” said Craig Tremblay, who works at staff housing on behalf of the Chateau. “For a trip up the hill? Now a round trip to get groceries is $4, which we think is unfair. Right now many people are walking it, but it’s not an option to walk up the snow during the winter, especially if you’re carrying groceries or it’s three in the morning. And that road is a safety concern, I’ve seen cars hit those barriers in the winter time. I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to walk up that road after it snows.”
Tremblay is researching the issue, and has been told that a decision was made by the municipality that it wasn’t fair to ask taxpayers and other riders to subsidize the service. He will make a case otherwise at the Whistler Chamber of Commerce meeting in January.
Meanwhile he says some staff members from the Chateau are purchasing monthly bus passes for $55, which is about three times what they used to pay in a month to ride the staff bus. He also questioned money spent on new bus shelters that could have been used to subsidize the service for staff.
Tremblay says a 50-cent increase is reasonable, on par with other increases, and most people he’s spoken to would pay a dollar for what amounts to a five minute trip up the hill. Some people go back and forth a few times a day, and are currently paying more than $4.
“The message I’m going to try to get out at the meeting is that staff housing benefits the whole village, the people who work for us also work for other businesses in the village,” he said. “It’s important to remember that these are front line staff and workers that are crucial, and contribute to the success of the resort.”