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Squamish commuter bus fares increase in November



Council voted to increase single bus fares between Squamish and Whistler from $5 to $8, to boost the price of a book of 10 from $45 to $72; and hike monthly passes from $1145 to $232.

The increase, effective Nov. 1, will only cover part of the increase in operating costs.

Council agreed to fund the commuter line, which carries 75-100 people between Squamish and Whistler daily, until the end of 2010. It will consider 2011 funding during the 2011 budget process that starts this fall.

Councillor Chris Quinlan, who put forward the motion, said this provides council a timeline to engage both the business community - which has not spoken up about the impacts the service has had on Whistler business - and the District of Squamish with how they should proceed in 2011.

"At the end of the day, let's get this thing to a regional transportation program," Quinlan said.

The service was started as a seasonal operation in 2005 after seven Squamish commuters died in a head-on collision on Highway 99. It has been a jointly funded project by Squamish, The Resort Municipality of Whistler and BC Transit. It was extended to a year-round service in 2008, when it was also agreed that Whistler council would fund its share until the end of 2010.

Staff gave a presentation at Tuesday night's council meeting, asking for the increase in fares for the 2010/2011 fiscal year to accommodate past levels of service.

Mayor Ken Melamed asked that council scrap the service altogether before the winter season, and was the only person to oppose the motion. He said a preferable solution would be to work toward a regional bus service, but even without that there are other options for Squamish residents that don't have to be subsidized by Whistler taxpayers - namely, the Greyhound bus service.

"What has changed since we instigated (this) is we have provided considerable employee and affordable housing," he said. "I don't see rationalization to fund this through a depleting fund."

Ted Milner supported raising the fares and extending service only until the end of January.

"I think that we have to go back to some first principles, and that's that you can't expect to house 100 per cent of your employees in your town," he said. He added it's reasonable to expect people to live outside the town where they work, which is an issue that council needs to work toward fixing.

"It's unacceptable to make people drive their cars to and from work," he said.


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