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Some of Whistler’s transportation problems were defined at a stakeholders workshop Monday; solving them will take considerably more time. Reliance on the automobile — by visitors, weekenders and locals — and the ever-increasing number of automobiles, is at the heart of the problem. A long-term solution will require a change of attitude, on the part of drivers, and a ton of money, to build an alternative means of transport that is just as convenient. Neither is going to appear overnight. However, some of the immediate problems were identified by John Nelson, the municipality’s director of engineering. They include: o Parking for tour buses (Lot 23 in Village North which is used now will be developed by next winter). o Employee parking in the village area (employees using day-skier or visitor parking). o Blackcomb says half of its business comes out of Vancouver, and the only practical way to get from Vancouver to Whistler is by car or bus, thus creating more traffic on the highway. o Visitors landing at Vancouver International Airport are finding it may take three-four hours to get from the airport to Whistler by bus and it isn’t cheap. Therefore, some people rent a car, putting more traffic on the highway. Blackcomb General Manager Scott Carrell said from the mountain’s point of view the highway between Vancouver and Whistler needs to be improved. However, he was also leery of suggestions the day skier parking lots become pay parking lots and of satellite parking lots that might have all skiers parking at Function Junction and taking a shuttle bus to the mountains. "The concern for Blackcomb is to make sure skiing remains an affordable experience," Carrell said. "I’m concerned about pay parking and I’m concerned about people experiencing the village at the end of the ski day if all the parking is in Function." Vail currently charges $12 a day for day skier parking. Nelson suggested there will have to be a number of solutions and one of them will be an alternative method of getting around the valley, but the automobile will remain the primary means of transportation. He also suggested it will only be a year or two before the present day skier lots are paved and some form of shuttle system from the lots to Blackcomb and the village is installed. Councillor Bill Murray, head of the municipality’s transportation committee and chair of Monday’s meeting, said he didn’t think corridor transportation issues and local transportation issues could be looked at in isolation. He suggested the final solution must be something unique, particularly if the owners of million-dollar homes are to be convinced to use public transit. Murray also said he didn’t think BC Rail would be part of the solution to transportation in the corridor. "BC Rail is in the business of hauling freight, and right now they’ve got a railway that goes from nowhere to nowhere, as far as we’re concerned. It needs to go from probably several places in Vancouver to Whistler Village." Councillor Hugh O’Reilly pointed out that, at the moment, transportation is primarily a problem at a few peak periods during the ski season. "I think there are creative ways to address the key time periods without spending millions on roads and other things," O’Reilly said. He suggested people who arrive on buses might get a free locker where they could change and store their gear after skiing so they could spend time in town at the end of the day. Councillor Max Kirkpatrick stated that the municipality and the mountains aren’t managing their present parking well, that employees are taking up parking stalls designed for visitors. "The worst thing that could happen to us is if they improved that highway. We can’t take care of the traffic in our own community right now," Kirkpatrick said. Chamber of Commerce President Rick Clare suggested the mountains might give priority parking to vehicles which arrive with more than three skiers in them. There were also some positive indicators. Les Habkirk of Whistler Transit reported that with the two additional buses this winter the transit system is carrying about 1,000 more passengers per day. He said 3,000 passengers was a busy day last winter but Whistler Transit carried 4,300 people the first day it counted passengers this winter. The next meeting on transportation will be Feb. 13.

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