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"There’s no magic bullet. Every little piece we can get helps." That was one of consultant Paul Mathews’ main themes at a public presentation Saturday on the municipality’s comprehensive transportation strategy. Two and a half years in the making, the transportation strategy "has not been an easy process," Transportation Advisory Group chair Bill Murray told the gathering. Murray said the TAG, which includes representatives of the Ministry of Highways, BC Rail, Whistler-Blackcomb, the municipality and concerned citizens, has strived to come up with a transportation plan unique to Whistler. "A four-lane thoroughfare through the heart of the valley would destroy much of what Whistler is," Murray said. "We accept that the car is a part of North American society, but we’re trying for a 15 per cent shift away from cars." A series of disincentives, including pay parking, are part of the strategy. "We can do the transportation plan on a napkin but nobody would agree with it," Mathews said. "So we have to build consensus, we have to test the plan to see if it works. "We don’t want to build the I 70 like Vail. If our only problem is moving cars, we can solve that." Mathews said it took 30 months to establish consensus on the goals and objectives of the transportation strategy. "What’s important to me is not what’s in the plan but what’s not in the plan," Mathews said. One of the fundamental parts of any Whistler transportation plan is getting people to the mountains. "If you don’t do that you kill the whole thing," Mathews said. Mathews’ company, Ecosign, studied land use in determining where Whistler residents and visitors were coming from to get to the mountains, where future visitors would be coming from within the village, and other destinations or reasons for travelling within Whistler. "Land use is critical, but we know most of the land use decisions that have and will be made," Mathews said. By the time Whistler reaches buildout many visitors will be staying in hotels in the village that are not within walking distance of the mountains, particularly if walking in ski boots. The transportation strategy calls for a couple of cabriolet cable lifts, similar to what is used at Mont Tremblant, to move people from Village North and some of the day skier lots to the mountains. Additional access lifts up both mountains are also called for. Whistler Mountain, which has far more developable terrain remaining than Blackcomb, actually has more capacity for skiers than the Whistler Valley will accommodate at buildout. Among the consultants other findings was that 58 per cent of skiers get to the mountains by automobile, that employee housing built close to the major employment centres significantly reduces the amount of traffic on the highway, and there is great potential for increasing use of transit, particularly in the summer and among visitors. The biggest users of transit are seasonal employees. Mathews said he was "shocked" to discover how many locals are driving around in cars on Saturday afternoons during the ski season. The report also calls for an internal street system connecting subdivisions in order to create an alternative to Highway 99. Some people gathered at the meeting questioned the idea of running traffic through neighbourhoods in order to create an alternative to the highway. Mathews responded that every subdivision "has to do its part" to relieve traffic on the highway, "otherwise we’re creating I 70 like Vail." Summaries of the transportation strategy are available from municipal hall. Public comments on the transportation strategy will be received at municipal hall for the next couple of weeks and then the TAG will consider the input before presenting a final report to council. Murray says the TAG has approximate costs for each piece of the transportation strategy, but sources of funding for each piece have not been identified.

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