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TAG forum attracts hundreds

Lots to discuss and a busload of opportunities down the road

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More than 250 people braved a wet and slushy night to attend the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) community forum on transportation at the Whistler Conference Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 17.

The forum included presentations on parking and transit, as well as background on the work of the RMOW's Transportation Advisory Group (TAG).

Attendees were invited to share their thoughts on topics such as preferred transportation options, peak day operations, Highway 99 efficiencies, transit improvements and parking management — both on poster boards set up around the conference centre and in discussion groups after the presentations.

Residents are also invited to take a survey at www.whistler.ca/enhancing-transportation.

Some of the discussion at the Highway 99 table touched on roundabouts, dedicated bus lanes and overpasses.

"Either overpasses or underpasses would be amazing," said Whistler Blackcomb COO Dave Brownlie. "The one at Alta Vista there works really well."

Anne Townley suggested a dedicated transit lane, with parking space in Cheakamus Crossing.

"With a Cheakamus parking area that makes so much sense," she said. "They get on, they get to the mountain half an hour before the person that's stuck in the traffic... It's going to get people moving, it's going to get those daytrippers not driving into the village."

Janusz Sobieniak, a citizen at large on the TAG, talked about his findings on roundabouts.

"They can handle low-to-medium traffic, (but) they jam up when you get high volumes at peak hours," he said. "And the second thing that we have to be aware of is the amount of land you need... it takes a lot of land, because you have to have a large radius to handle all those heavy tractor trailers."

Discussion at the preferred travel options table focused on getting more people onto bikes.

The Whistler Food Bank tried a bike valet service at the Farmers' Market in the past, noted executive director Sara Jennings.

"It didn't work. Nobody took part, or very few," she said with a laugh. "Granted, it could have used some improvements and been advertised better."

People with expensive mountain bikes may be inclined to use a valet, but the service might not translate to more bike commuters, Jennings noted.

Municipal planner and cycling advocate Frank Savage said he feels it's still an idea worth pursuing.

"You'd have to be very strategic of where you located it," he said, noting that the centre of Marketplace was one previously identified location.

"Things have changed a little bit, but I do think it's a concept worth piloting. Give it a good shot and maybe make some fine tuning."

Adding more bike racks in the village should be a short-term priority, said Claire Ruddy.

"There is a lot of bike racks, there's a lot more than there used to be, but they're full in the summer," she said.

And adding more bike racks to buses would also help, Jennings added.

"You can get racks for three now at least, if not more, but (the current racks) are full by Cheakamus," she said. "They leave Cheakamus with two bikes, so you're not going to get on with a bike."

The RMOW has outlined actions it plans to take this year, as well as some possible options in the medium and long term. Here are just a few of the initiatives:

DRAFT ACTION PLAN FOR 2017

On Highway 99 efficiencies: Study highway intersections to find ways to keep traffic flowing (including looking at road line re-alignment to make it easier on people leaving subdivisions, and locations where roundabouts might improve traffic flow); shorten accident investigation times; and explore synchronizing traffic signals.

On transit: try to reduce costs to users (by discussing combo transit/lift passes with Whistler Blackcomb, requiring contributions from events and expanding the Family Travel program); expand the free transit pilot project to Saturdays and Sundays in summer and on festival weekends for the entire transit day; use money from pay parking to lower fares; expand service (more frequency on priority routes); and implement a queue jumper for buses to make riding the bus a more attractive option.

On peak day operations: Use parking attendants to manually control traffic in and out of the day lots and at key intersections; advertise private parking lots better; and consider testing a valet bike service for events and weekends.

On parking management: Put recommendations from the parking study to use; start planning for automated highway signs to tell visitors which lots are full; put car counters and "lot full" signs at the conference centre; use staff and temporary signage to help people find underground lots; develop and launch a parking app for publicly accessible stalls.

ACTIONS FOR 2018 to 2020

For pedestrians and cyclists: Build sidewalks on some main roads and overpasses in key locations; increase the number and affordability of ski lockers

With the Ministry of Transportation: Improve intersections on Highway 99 (dedicated left turn lanes? Roundabouts? Overpasses? Additional lanes at Creekside?); replace signals with modern, computerized signals; exclusive bus lanes on short sections of the highway, queue jump lanes for buses; find ways to avoid traffic jams coming in and leaving Whistler; and increase lobbying for concrete barriers where accidents occur the most.

On reducing highway closure times: limit allowable closure time to one hour through legislation; work with other municipalities in the corridor and the RCMP to implement shortened accident clean-up protocol and maximum highway closure limits.

On transit: Consider a separate bus lane; increase frequency; investigate alternate revenue sources, and try to make transit free and frequent year-round (which the RMOW expects would boost ridership from 50 to 100 per cent).

ACTIONS FOR 2020 to 2030

On road infrastructure: Increase road capacity between Function Junction and Lorimer Road; major upgrades to the Sea to Sky highway; create off-shoulder bus lanes for efficient movement in high-traffic hours; remove signalized intersections from the highway; explore a road connection from Spring Creek to Bayshores.

On transit: continue to expand service on the core network, as well as regional and interregional service to and from Whistler; build a dedicated bus lane from Cheakamus to Lorimer; use autonomous vehicles.

And more: connect to the Lower Mainland via passenger train; build a regional airport; build a South Base parking facility; manage growth in the Sea to Sky; make full use of advances in technology like driverless cars; build a ground-level gondola from Cheakamus to Whistler Village with walk on/off stops along the way (free to locals during the week); and installing a teleporter in the Roundhouse, “using technology from Star Trek” (we’re guessing this one is a joke… or is it?).

Were you at the community forum? Pique wants to hear your thoughts. Email reporter Braden Dupuis at bdupuis@piquenewsmagaizne.com or call the office at 604-938-0202.

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