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Squamish-Whistler bus in doubt this winter

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Despite the success of last winter’s pilot bus project, allowing employees an affordable way to commute between Squamish and Whistler, there is no guarantee that the service will be back this winter.

Brian Barnett, general manager of engineering and public works for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, says no decision has been made on whether the bus will return this winter. The funding for last winter’s service was provided for one season only.

Instead the focus is on acquiring long-term funding for a permanent regional transit service. There has already been talk with the provincial government, according to Barnett, and they have shown an interest in the project and hinted the corridor is heading in the right direction.

The long-term proposal will outline a funding strategy and propose a plan to amalgamate the surrounding communities into one transit system running throughout the Sea to Sky corridor. At the moment a business plan is being developed with hopes of presenting a draft to the provincial government by this fall.

The need for a local community transit service has been proven by the success of the Sea to Sky pilot project, with an average of 233 riders each day, and many of the buses running at maximum capacity.

There is concern that rising gas prices and no new staff housing in Whistler this year could be a problem for Squamish residents commuting to Whistler for work.

There are other means of transportation, however many of the buses provide services catering towards skiers and snowboarders heading to and from the hill.

Last winter’s Squamish-Whistler bus schedule was co-ordinated with many employees’ schedules. Buses left downtown Squamish at 6:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., arriving in Whistler about an hour later. From Whistler the schedule ran 7:45 a.m., 5 p.m., and midnight.

The Squamish-Whistler bus was introduced last winter following a head-on car accident in Squamish in January 2004 that took the lives of seven Squamish residents. Five of the people were returning to Squamish after working a night shift in Whistler when their vehicle struck a north-bound vehicle carrying a father and son.

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