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Public pushing for Squamish-Whistler bus

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With the Liberals preparing to slash budgets for virtually every public service with the exception of health care and education, a Whistler employee who commutes from Squamish is building grass roots support for a planned transit link between the communities.

"While we recognize the province is entering into a period where restraint is the key focus, it is imperative to establish more effective transportation choices for the Sea to Sky corridor," wrote Al McCabe in a letter to B.C. Transit that he hopes residents of both Squamish and Whistler will sign.

According to McCabe, a bus link between the communities would help to alleviate traffic congestion and give resort employees the option of relocating to Squamish. He acknowledges that car and van pooling programs are also viable alternatives to single passenger vehicles, but says they aren’t flexible enough for many resort jobs.

"There is a lot of support here in town and in municipal hall, including support from people who live in Black Tusk and Pinecrest," says McCabe. "People in those communities want to see some kind of service initiative there.

"It wouldn’t just cater to employees, everyone could benefit. People can come to Squamish to shop. My kids come up to Whistler on the commercial bus all the time to snowboard. I think there are a lot of potential users for the system, aside from staff commuting."

According to a June survey of Whistler employees, 41 per cent of the 722 respondents lived in Squamish, compared to 45 per cent in Whistler and 12 per cent in Pemberton. Bus service linking Pemberton, Mount Currie and Whistler was started last year.

When asked how they get to work, 40 per cent of respondents said they drive alone, 30 per cent car pool, five per cent van pool, 12 per cent take transit, and 13 per cent use some other means to get to work.

Of the respondents who live in Squamish and work in Whistler, 29 per cent drive alone, 54 per cent car pool, 13 per cent van pool, and 12 per cent are already using commercial bus lines for transit. Only 4 per cent use "other" means to get to work.

Some 71 per cent of Squamish respondents said they would use public transit if a service was available, and 50 per cent said they would be very likely or somewhat likely to use a van pool to get to work if the program was expanded.

Peter Murray of B.C. Transit is conducting a feasibility study on a bus system between Squamish and Whistler and has sent the first draft to the municipalities for their review.

"The first part of the study was just looking at the demand for travel, which was basically the employee survey," says Murray. "The second part deals directly with recommendations for service options, and we wanted to wait until the municipalities have commented on these recommendations before we go into too much deal.

"One thing we have known all along and that’s that there wouldn’t be any funding available for this current year for any sort of transit service – if it’s going to happen, it won’t happen until 2002."

B.C. Transit will move ahead with a van pool program this winter, in co-operation with the municipalities and the Jack Bell Foundation.

"There have been some changes to the van pool program where B.C. Transit has become more involved, and we’re setting up a partnership between the three groups," Murray say. "Once a structure has been established, we hope there will be a significant growth in the number of van pools in the Squamish-Whistler corridor."

McCabe supports van pooling, but says it’s not for everybody.

"This choice suffers the same drawback as car pools – lack of flexibility," he says. "It only works well for staff whose work routine is very stable.

"My goal is to encourage people to contact the province and let them know they’re interested in seeing this bus service added."

To send the province a letter supporting the bus service, visit www.best.bc.ca/hottopics/index.html.

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