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Transit costs will increase for Whistler

Nesters facility, new buses part of increased price



The new bus facility near Nesters is one of the main driving forces behind B.C. Transit’s recent announcement that transit costs will increase for Whistler.

Brian Barnett, general manager of environmental services, could not say how much the Resort Municipality of Whistler will have to pay, but he said the municipality should find out the numbers over the next few weeks.

“I am not trying to avoid the question, but I don’t have all the cost information from B.C. Transit,” said Barnett.

“There are a few significant elements at play, and I really don’t know and would prefer not to guess what the costs would be and what the potential issues would be.”

The transit facility, which is being built next to the municipal works yard, will house 20 state-of-the-art hydrogen-powered buses coming to Whistler in the fall of 2009 as part of a pilot program to showcase hydrogen fuel technology.

Construction on the transit facility stirred up considerable controversy in August when several community members, including biologists, said the site’s environmental value made it unsuitable for construction. However the wetland, owned by B.C. Hydro, is exempt from municipal regulation.

Joanna Morton, marketing and communications manager for BC Transit, could not say how much the facility will cost.

Barnett added that while typically the RMOW would pay approximately 50 per cent of construction costs, the situation is complicated because the federal and provincial governments are covering the costs of the hydrogen buses.

Two other changes are also behind the cost increase, said Barnett.

The RMOW signed a new, seven-year contract with B.C. Transit on Nov. 1, 2008, which is affecting costs. As well, Whistler received 20 new replacement buses that arrived late last year.

“Each of those has cost impacts, and we are just working with B.C. Transit right now to sort out what those costs are and understand what the impact would be to the municipality,” said Barnett.

Transit cost increases are not rare. Costs for the RMOW increased 26 per cent between 2006 and 2007, to $1.6 million. They increased again between 2007 and 2008, to $1.8 million.

The Whistler and Valley Express (WAVE) Transit System is a three-way partnership between the RMOW, B.C. Transit and the operating company Whistler Transit Ltd. Last year, WAVE shuttled approximately 66.5 passengers per hour in the winter and 36.1 per hour in the summer.