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Transportation plan draws positive reactions

Co-operation, coordination key to moving people, goods during Games

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So far so good.

That's the general consensus of local organizations as they learn about the 2010 Olympic transportation plan.

"We are very confident that the process we have been involved in has been very successful..." said Fiona Famulak, president of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) released the details of Phase I of the $157 million plan Wednesday morning. The next two phases will be released in July and late October.

The chamber has been in discussions with Olympic organizers and other resort partners on transportation issues for some time. It has raised three main issues: Whistler workers, whether based locally or in Pemberton or Squamish, must be able to get to work; that guests to the resort must be able to get here safely and in a timely fashion; and that deliveries for businesses be workable.

"We have been working quite closely with the (Resort Municipality of Whistler) and (Olympic organizers) to understand what the business needs are and that they are addressed appropriately," said Famulak, adding that over 30 businesses from all sectors have been working together to make sure their concerns are heard on transportation issues.

Businesses want to make sure that they can get their goods and supplies delivered on time. They also want to be able to have quick delivery access for emergency repairs or such things as courier services.

The transportation plan does include such rapid access points in it.

It envisions that deliveries will be made outside of peak hours, which are expected to last from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The RMOW is looking at relaxing noise bylaws to accommodate deliveries and a third lane is being built from Function Junction into town, which should also help. (The third lane will become a bicycle lane post Games.)

Transit from satellite communities will improve as will bus service in the community as the number of buses increases from 39 to 135. Frequency of service will also go up. Buses will run 24 hours a day seven days a week.

While there is still work to do, said Famulak, there is also great opportunity as 55,000 people are expected to be staying in Whistler.

"That is great and our businesses are getting ready to welcome that," she said.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed also welcomed the details revealed so far, applauding the moves by VANOC to rely on non-car transportation strategies to service the Games.

"...(They are) taking the most effective approach to reducing traffic jams, congestion, and also reducing the environmental footprint," he said.

"I think it is just fantastic the way everyone has worked together to make that a reality - focusing on public transportation and not allowing private vehicles to get to the venues are all being tied into that."

There is no doubt that will cause a few hiccups along the way as people must be re-trained in their commuter habits.

"It is not going to be easy for people," said Melamed, adding that the RMOW will produce a community transportation guide and will have phone and web information available to help people.

"There will be an energetic engagement process to help people get informed ahead of time as much as possible."

He also hopes the plan reinforces the message that Whistler is open for business.

Work needs to be done with local coach and other carriers to get a plan in place to get resort visitors here.

"It is going to be up to the local community to try and realize that opportunity," said Melamed.

"This is an open invitation to the private sector to realize an opportunity. It is going to be a fantastic skiing experience. It is really is an opportunity looking for a taker."

Melamed said the planned highway checkpoint at Alice Lake is a necessary part of the plan. With no parking available in Whistler to daily visitors there must be a way to turn the looky-loos back.

"If there hadn't been one I would have been concerned," he said.

Whistler Blackcomb's Christina Moore said the goal should be to keep a clear and consistent message on how to get to Whistler so that a family with skis and no parking does not arrive at the checkpoint.

"That would mean we would have failed," she said.

Whistler Blackcomb is satisfied that the plan addresses the needs of workers to get to work within the resort, she said.

But: " ...We are definitely interested to see more information about the schedules between Squamish and Pemberton, although it appears that there will be plenty of service between the communities."

The focus from Whistler Blackcomb's point of view is maximizing visits throughout the whole ski season as well as during the Games. Strategies are already being discussed to ensure success, said Moore.

Part of that is having discussion with private carriers to makes sure Lower Mainland users can get up here to ski and board for the day during the Games.

"...It is great to see that the highway will be open, so the next step of this will be to work with partners to maximize the options for transportation up to the mountains," said Moore, adding that 90 per cent of Whistler Blackcomb's terrain will be open to the public during the Games.

Tourism Whistler will also continue to work with partners on the next phases of the plan and to date are satisfied with the information.

Spokesman Jeff McDonald said the resort must keep its eyes firmly on the long-term opportunity the Games present as it learns how transportation will be affected.

"There is no doubt that the Games will have a significant impact on businesses, hotels, other goods, and services," he said.

"We think that this phase of the plan provides overarching details but we will be working with other partners to make sure the needs of Whistler businesses are reflected in the future phases of the plan.

"People and businesses should anticipate some degree of change when it comes to when and how they get around at Games time."

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