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The politics of movement in the Sea to Sky

Three candidates talk transportation; NDP's Livaja won't attend Whistler all-candidates debate

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As communities along the Sea to Sky corridor grow, movement throughout the West Vancouver-Sea to Sky riding will likely continue to be a hot topic long past Election Day on May 9.

How do we ensure residents and visitors don't get lost in the gridlock?

"It's an ongoing conversation about how we determine how much is enough — how can we find that balance between healthy society, healthy environment? And transportation is obviously key to that," said Jordan Sturdy, BC Liberal MLA for the riding.

"But at this point I think the main issue that I'm seeing door to door... is the concern about transportation, about how the system is working."

From Sturdy's perspective, as someone who spends a lot of time travelling up and down the corridor, "the system works incredibly well," he said.

"(Highway 99) is not perfect, but it's an amazing piece of infrastructure."

Since it was upgraded ahead of the 2010 Olympics, the highway has slashed accident rates and created more opportunities for businesses and residents alike, Sturdy said.

"I think we need to appreciate what we do have, but at the same time we need to steward that and safeguard that capacity... I think it's critical to look at alternative modes," he said.

There will be more small upgrades to the highway over time, specifically in regards to cycling and safety, "but there won't be the same sort of significant change that took place as a result of the highway improvement project," Sturdy said.

In safeguarding the capacity of Highway 99, then, the riding must look to things like improved regional transit, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and even a potential high-speed rail linkage from Vancouver to Whistler, Sturdy said.

Early discussions are already taking place about what a high-speed train might look like on the Sea to Sky.

"Right now it's a bit 'pie in the sky,' but it does justify a closer examination to see if it has possibilities for the future," Sturdy said.

"The highway is something that we, I think, are going to have some time to rely on. It's going to remain an efficient transportation corridor... but I would say that we need to be working and planning for alternatives."

If elected, the Green Party's Dana Taylor said his approach would focus on two points initially: What is it we're really trying to solve, and what is the cost?

"What is being sought? What in the future plans of all of those communities along the way are going to have an impact that require satisfactory transportation?" he said.

Improved transit will certainly play a role, "and if you're going to address the transit issue you may have to look at lane dedication, if you will, perhaps on a time basis through the corridor," Taylor said.

Making mass transit convenient for those who use it would be a good incentive to get people out of their cars, he added.

"The incentive part of it is the convenience and the advocacy of the system itself. Is it working? Does it move people where they want to go?" he said.

An improved communication system that warned people ahead of time of heavy traffic flows along the corridor would also help during peak times, Taylor said.

As for talk of a high-speed rail system, Taylor said there are some hard questions, economic and otherwise, that come attached to it.

"We have to get a little more creative with what we've got and what we're capable of," Taylor said. "I think the hard economics are such that that solution would have to come with a whole bunch of other considerations... are you prepared for it?"

A high-speed rail system from Vancouver to Whistler would have far reaching impacts along the corridor, and may actually accelerate an already rapid growth pace.

"If that is the case I would rather be ahead of the curve in anticipation of that with solutions in hand, than falling behind having to respond to it," Taylor said.

"And frankly I think I sense from the Whistler position we're already falling behind."

If independent candidate Tristan Galbraith were elected, he would work to add a third lane in Whistler "and give money back to the RMOW as well as our people immediately," he said, noting the huge amounts of tourism revenue that the municipality draws to the province.

"We are bringing people here but locals are not seeing results," he said.

Galbraith said he would like to see more tax dollars going back into things like cycling, cross-country skiing and e-bike transit.

"As citizens we need to know where our money goes," he said.

He would also like to find a way to address overcrowding at Joffre Lakes and Duffey Lake Park.

In response to interview requests, a representative for NDP candidate Michelle Livaja said she is "unavailable for media inquiries at this time," before referring Pique to the BC NDP's platform.

Livaja will also not be in attendance at the Whistler all-candidates debate scheduled for Mon., April 24 at the Squamish-Lil'wat Cultural Centre.

The free event kicks off at 5 p.m.

Sturdy, Taylor and Galbraith are all confirmed to be in attendance.

For more on each campaign head to www.votejordan.ca, www.bcgreens.ca, www.tristangalbraith.com and www.bcndp.ca.

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