March break was good for the Whistler and Valley Express, as the transit serviced experienced ridership increases on many of its routes.
Overall, ridership between March 10 and March 23 was up 9 per cent over 2002, with an average of 17,512 riders each day. The low day still had 16,839 riders, and the busiest day 19,363.
"We were really surprised to see numbers up that high," says WAVE manager Scott Pass. "I would say we would have been happy if the numbers had stayed flat with everything that is going on in the world, and we even expected to see decreases."
The biggest ridership increases came on what Pass calls the services cash routes "Thats good for cost-recovery at B.C. Transit," which subsidizes the route, says Pass.
The Alpine Meadows and Alpine/Emerald routes saw passenger numbers grow 15 per cent. The Whistler Creek route was up 13 per cent with 47,895 riders, and Creekside Express numbers were up 33 per cent.
The irregular route along Alta Lake Road had 14 per cent growth, and the Tapley Connector/Blueberry Route saw ridership increase to 27 per cent. The Staff Housing route was also busier than normal, with 47 per cent more people taking the bus compared to last year.
The only routes that were down were the Emerald Estates route and the Village Shuttle which was down just two per cent with 101,765 riders.
According to Pass, the increase in service has been facilitated with the same number of hours as last year, but with a schedule that has been optimized throughout the day.
While some of the routes still have a way to go before the numbers have maxed out with the current level of service, the Creekside routes, which moved a combined 68,300 people in two weeks, have been overwhelmed at times.
"Weve had a few cases of drivers having to leave passengers behind," said Pass. This typically happens on good ski days between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and in the afternoons between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Poor weather has also prompted people who might normally walk or ride their bikes to take transit.
New developments in Creekside, the loss of a parking lot in the village, and an increase in the number of "rubber tire" visitors from Washington and the Lower Mainland taking the bus have also contributed to the growth.
"Were expecting huge numbers again in April with Easter, and of course with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival," says Pass.