After some debate, the
Squamish Lillooet Regional District still plans to develop a regional transit
plan, and will be looking to member municipalities for input.
At an SLRD meeting held at
the end of January, Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed says there were some concerns
raised about a proposed regional transit plan for the entire corridor, which
would link Lillooet and Squamish.
“There had been a letter
from the District of Squamish asking the Regional District not to go ahead with
the establishment of that service, and Whistler had expressed similar
concerns,” Melamed said.
In November, the
board approved a series of initiatives intended to help establish a regional
transit planning service, and to make the SLRD eligible to apply for $1,191,531
through the Federal-Provincial Gas Tax Agreement to go towards transit
infrastructure, like bus pullouts and shelters, and park and rides.
“We’re in the process
of developing a Regional Growth Strategy, and one of the goals in that document
is to improve transportation linkages,” Area C director Susie Gimse said. “One
of the strategic directions that we’ve all agreed to is to consider a model for
the provision of regional transit service that would create a bus service
between the major centres in the region.”
To apply for the
funding, Gimse says the board first has to establish the service in a bylaw, an
idea that was supported back in November.
But it seems like some
members are having second thoughts.
“The larger municipalities
came back and went, ‘whoa, wait a minute. We’re not ready yet to look at a
regional transit service.’”
Gimse attributes the
hesitation to a misunderstanding about how a regional transit service would
“I think the municipalities were concerned that the Regional
District was going to take over the delivery of transit service within
municipalities, and that’s not the direction we want to go. We want to be able
to link into municipal transit systems and connect the communities within the
She points out that they
have a lot of planning to do to work out the details, which means they need the
Melamed says Whistler
supports planning for regional transit and transportation, although there are
some questions that still need to be answered.
“What we haven’t agreed to
in the corridor is an operating model, so is there a function at the Regional
District that runs the transit service?” Melamed questioned. “Most of the
transit service existing runs between Squamish and Pemberton. Do those three
municipalities eventually run services with support of the Regional District?”
Melamed says there are also
funding issues which need to be discussed.
service is run at cheap subsidies, and with budgets being a challenge for
everybody, we have to be very clear in understanding how we pay for it.”
Despite these concerns,
Melamed says Whistler is still supportive of the idea of regional transit.
“Whistler’s position is that
we’re still very committed to regional transit – we just need to figure
out the best way to deliver it and a fair and equitable way to fund it.”
The board also had
introduced the idea of implementing a new residential tax to go towards
planning and implementation of infrastructure construction, which was balked at
by some board members.
“They didn’t want to
contribute funding towards the service, so we actually scaled that back to half
a cent per thousand (dollars),” Gimse said, “It was in November about two cents
per thousand (dollars).”
Based on the 2007
Revised Assessments, this should raise $65,847.50 each year.
According to Melamed, that
should establish enough funding to support a half-time planner who can develop
regional infrastructure, but not a regional transit service.
Gimse says the timing is
right for the Regional District to be developing a transit service, because the
funding is available to local governments to embark on these kinds of
initiatives, and adds that the board has committed to being more
“The general public supports
some kind of regional transit service. We talk about the need to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions. We all signed onto the Climate Action Charter. We’ve
all agreed to start making advances in the reduction of greenhouse gases.
Regional transit makes sense.”
The SLRD directed staff to
continue dialogue between administrators from all parties, and have initiated
an Alternative Approval Process to obtain electoral assent for the necessary