By Shannon Gordon
You know you live in a great town when all transit buses come equipped with ski and bike racks, and when you’re allowed to carry your snowboards on board. That’s the ‘Whistler Way’ — and WAVE for you.
WAVE, the Whistler and Valley Express, has been in operation since 1991. Its 25-bus fleet served 2.5 million passengers in its 2005-06 operating year, averaging 16,000 riders per day during the winter season.
For a moment, let’s imagine Whistler without our blue and pink WAVE buses merrily moving around town…
Instead of SKIING Magazine ranking Whistler the #1 ski resort in North America for the 10 th consecutive year, their headline might read: “Air Quality Advisory Issued in Whistler, B.C. — medical clinic clogged due to asthma and other respiratory emergencies.” We’d be so far from meeting our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that we wouldn’t receive our share of the multi-million dollar federal gas tax transfer to Canadian municipalities. With affordability already a challenge, the 4,500 new seasonal employees in town would be forced to choose between thumbing rides along Highway 99 or buying cheap, dilapidated cars — neither option providing safety nor timely transportation to their places of work. Permanent resident vehicle ownership would likely be higher than the 5,000 vehicles currently owned; and guests, who have never driven in snow, would also be clogging the roads. As a result, traffic congestion would be so bad that we’d have to consider widening the highway from Function to Emerald to four lanes. Imagine visiting families wrestling their ski and snowboard equipment from their suites around MarketPlace and the Benchlands to the lifts without the free Village Shuttle? How’s that for a disincentive to return for their next vacation? And how would our mayor get to municipal hall, given that he currently buses almost every morning?
Alright, enough said, but you have to agree: the Whistler picture is not as pretty without WAVE.
Now, imagine for a moment a town where pedestrians, cyclists, transit and other alternatives to private vehicles are the priority… Whistler is already well on its way to doing this with our pedestrian-oriented village, the Valley Trail system and WAVE. And now its policy through the Whistler2020 Transportation Strategy, found online at www.whistler2020.ca.
Most of you know the basics about WAVE. If not, visit www.busonline.ca or call 604-932-4020. However, you might be less aware of some of WAVE’s special programs and services that deliver added safety, affordability and accessibility to the resort community from 5:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily.
Take the McGruff Bus program for example. Who knew to tell their kids that they can always jump on a bus if they are feeling that their safety is threatened? Each bus is radio equipped to contact police and ambulance services. Or there’s the Request a Stop service, where passengers can ask the driver to stop the bus between regular stops after 9 p.m. if they feel that their safety is threatened.
Affordability is delivered in spades by WAVE when compared to the $8,500 annual cost of owning and operating a 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier. At just $50 per month, the 30-Day WaveCard buys you a year of transportation in Whistler for just $600. New 6- and 12-month WaveCards being introduced in the New Year will deliver further savings. Other WaveCards, discounts and the federal government’s new Bus Pass Tax Deduction of 15.25 per cent offer additional ways to save on your transit costs.
WAVE also improves Whistler’s accessibility for people with disabilities. Its 12 “low-floor” buses provide access to wheelchairs and scooters and have a kneeling feature that lowers the entry level for passengers who use walkers, crutches or who have difficulty climbing stairs. Further accessibility will be delivered by the soon-to-be-introduced Taxi Saver program, which will provide a 50 per cent subsidy towards the cost of taxi rides for people with disabilities.
What about WAVE’s environmental innovations — aside from the obvious benefits of fewer vehicles on the road? While the fleet is currently powered by diesel fuel, within the next couple of years new bus purchases will be informed by a study about to begin to determine the most sustainable fuel technology suitable for Whistler.
Wow. Take your skis/board, ride the WAVE and enjoy this great town by bus!
Thanks to all the community groups, businesses and
individuals who are helping to make Whistler an increasingly sustainable and
To KNOW MORE about other actions that are moving our community toward Whistler2020, or to find out how we’re performing visit www.whistler2020.ca. To suggest a story idea, get involved with the Whistler2020 task force process, or to suggest actions for task force consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org