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Transit service standards to be part of annual agreements

B.C. communities feeling the pinch of increased transit cost



Better all-round bus service is a goal not just on council's mind.

BC Transit, and by extension Whistler Transit, is aiming to put its best foot forward too.

With that in mind, council has approved the latest operating agreements for the bus company.

"I'm satisfied that you're doing the work and taking the action," said Councillor Ralph Forsyth at Tuesday's council meeting where BC Transit presented on its performance monitoring. Forsyth has been one of the more vociferous critics of service on the bus system and the critical need to have performance standards.

It was one of the reasons why he, and others on council, withheld support at the last meeting for the Annual Operating Agreements that require council approval.

At Tuesday's meeting, Peter Rantucci, director of regional transit systems for BC Transit, outlined the key performance indicators for the system to ensure good service, a practice that is not common in other transit systems across Canada.

For example, from August 2010 to March 2011, 90 per cent of all trip departures left no later than five minutes from the scheduled time.

Likewise, 99.9 per cent of all scheduled trips were completed.

In the past year there has been a 35 per cent decline in complaints and a four-fold increase in compliments.

BC Transit is in the process of embedding the service standards into the annual agreements.

"We believe that we have everything in the agreement to achieve what you want," said Rantucci.

The standards will be revisited from year to year to ensure that service is up to par.

"I see this as something that annually we'll revisit," said Rantucci.

"I do see it as a living tree."

Council passed two operating agreements at Tuesday's meeting covering the service until September 2011.

The Whistler Transit service is changing this week as it moves into spring operations. There will be reduced service levels on all routes. For more information check out , pick up a Rider's Guide, or call 604-932-4020.


Transit hikes not just Whistler's problem


Whistler is not alone in its transit woes.

Other communities throughout B.C. are facing similar budgetary strains as the costs to run transit continue to go up.

And while those communities may not have the same brand-new multi-million dollar transit facility or a fleet of new buses, as in Whistler, there are commonalities to the rising costs - fuel, labour, and BC Transit's management fee are all on the increase.

There is some "comfort in company" said Councillor Chris Quinlan, who was one of four municipal representatives to attend a meeting with other BC Transit customers in Richmond last week.

"This isn't something that is strictly being dealt with in Whistler," he added.

"The upshot of that is that the solutions are not all Whistler's to find."

One of the other players at the table last week was the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The district's general manager of transportation and solid waste, Dennis Trudeau, said in addition to the rising costs of labour and fuel, there are also increases to debt service and transit's management fee.

Specifically, in the regional district, the debt service costs have gone up 25 per cent, and the management fee has increased 80 per cent in the last three years.

"We're hoping that BC Transit can come up with a plan that holds the line in increasing costs," said Trudeau.

BC Transit is in the process of reviewing its costs. It did not return Pique's phone calls as of press time Tuesday.

In Whistler, transit's budget has gone up $3.7 million this year, and while some of that money has gone to service new subdivisions, the rest is to cover the increased costs.

It caused a huge municipal headache as council tried to balance the 2011 budget.

In the end, after raising fares and cutting the Squamish commuter and chopping from elsewhere in the municipal budget, council simply said it could not find $1.1 million to maintain the status quo for transit.

Whistler and BC Transit are now working together for a resolution to the problem.

"There's a lot of work that is being done with transit going forward," said Quinlan.

BC Transit will be at tonight's council meeting with a presentation on performance monitoring. Council will then be asked for a second time to approve the Annual Operating Agreement that stretches until the end of September 2011.

Two weeks ago council refused to pass that agreement until transit had reported back on the much sought after performance indicators to ensure good service in the resort.

A transit service review will be presented to council in the coming weeks.




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