The transportation situation within Sea to Sky communities and the Sea to Sky corridor during the month of February is becoming clearer, with announcements recently by local commercial carriers and B.C. Transit.
There are still some outstanding issues to be resolved, including a park and ride facility for Pemberton commuters, but generally speaking the public transportation system is fairly comprehensive through the Olympic Games.
In terms of the private carriers, Pacific Coach Lines is planning 13 shuttles per day from Feb. 12 to March 1, with the first bus leaving Vancouver at 6:30 a.m. and the last bus leaving at 11 a.m. From Whistler, the first bus will leave at 3 a.m. to arrive at the airport at 5:45 a.m. and will leave ever hour from 5 a.m. to 11 a.m., at 12:30 p.m., then at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Pacific Coach Lines service will depend on whether the drivers decide to go on strike. Employees voted in favour of a strike two weeks ago, although they are continuing to work while their union negotiates with the company over wages, benefits and pension contributions. Their contract expired in March.
Greyhound will have eight departures from Whistler Village during the day, from 8:15 a.m. to 9 p.m. and may add extra buses to meet demand.
The Olympic Bus Network will include more commuter service to Squamish and Pemberton as well as enhanced service in Whistler for the duration of February.
A frequency schedule was posted on the B.C. Transit website two weeks ago. It has since been updated with a map and chart that shows how often buses will travel each route from 5 a.m. to midnight, midnight to 3 a.m. and 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
For example, the Creekside Express bus will offer service every seven minutes from 5 a.m. to midnight, every 10 minutes from midnight to 3 a.m. and every 15 minutes from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. There are similar schedules for Whistler Creek, Emerald Estates, Alpine Meadows and Tapley's Connector buses.
The Village Shuttle will run every five minutes, staff housing buses and buses to the athletes' village every 10 minutes, and so on.
Connector buses to Squamish and Pemberton should leave every 10 to 15 minutes during peak periods, and every 20 to 30 minutes through the night.
In addition to regular routes, additional service will be added to the athletes' village, Olympic venues, Kadenwood, Alta Lake Road, within Squamish and Pemberton, on Nordic Drive, on Gondola Way, Black Tusk/Pinecrest and other destinations not usually covered by bus service. Details are available at www.bctransit.com/olympics/.
The bus services kick in on Feb. 1. Special passes are required to ride the Olympic Bus Network - regular monthly passes, six month passes and yearly passes will not work during that period. Six month and 12 month passholders will be able to get the Olympic pass for free starting on Dec. 1 at municipal hall.
If you start a monthly pass in the middle of January it will stop working on Feb. 1, so people are urged to take care. It is possible to get a pro-rated refund at municipal hall for lost days, but the best solution for transit users is not to start a monthly pass after Jan. 1, and to use other pass and ticket options in the meantime to make up the difference.
The Games Time passes are available for $38.50, with unlimited service. You can also pay a $2 cash fare during the Olympics on all Whistler routes including the Village Shuttle, which will not be free during the Olympics.
The Squamish Connector pass is $95 for unlimited travel in Squamish and Whistler as well as the connector bus, or you can pay $10 to ride the connector.
The Pemberton Connector pass is $50, which includes service within Pemberton/Mt. Currie and service to Whistler. You can also pay a $6 fare.
While locals purchasing tickets to Whistler Olympic events will not have bus service included, transportation to Whistler Olympic Park will be available during the Games.
Travel permits to use the Sea to Sky Highway during the Games are also being sent out to residents of Whistler, two per household, and additional passes will be available at permit offices in Vancouver, Squamish (VANOC Volunteer Centre at #2-40437 Tantalus Road) and Whistler (municipal hall on Blackcomb Way).