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Upgrades in store for Whistler Transit facility

Governments announce $3.2 million for natural gas compressor and fuelling station

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Representatives from the federal and provincial governments were in Whistler on Friday to announce a $3.2-million upgrade to Whistler's BC Transit facility.

The money will be used to install a new natural gas compressor and fuelling station at the facility to support buses that run on compressed natural gas.

The federal government is providing $1.6 million from its Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF). The province will provide $1,056,000 while Whistler will pay the remaining $544,000.

"This is just a great example of the priority that our government is putting on infrastructure investment," said Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, MP for the riding.

"We really listened to communities and provincial governments about what would work for them, and in this case, the federal government has invested 50 per cent of the total cost of the $3.2 million, which allows the province to step up and alleviate some pressure on the local government."

The upgrade will help make transit in the Sea to Sky more sustainable, said MLA Jordan Sturdy.

"I'd also like to point out that we are putting a sharper focus on regional transit right now, so over the course of the next several months we'll be working with local government, with communities, with BC Transit, with First Nations, to understand how we can put a regional transit service together that works effectively for the whole corridor," Sturdy said.

Friday's announcement is in addition to other recently approved projects under the PTIF, including new technology for buses - CCTV cameras, real-time tracking apps and more.

"One of the examples is an automatic passenger counter so we know exactly how many people are getting off and on buses," said Manuel Achadinha, president and CEO of BC Transit.

"And that helps us, because it gives us data to better plan routes so we know what are the busy stops, the areas that we really need to focus on and then enhancing the service."

The new tech should be rolling out in 2018, Achadinha said.

Asked about enhanced service and routes, Achadinha said BC Transit is working with local governments to find out where expansions are needed most.

"I know they're going through their budget deliberations now, so we're waiting for them to come back to see... if they want any more expansion, to what extent," he said.

Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden called Friday's announcement "marvellous."

"We're going to be able to deliver a better service at a lower cost, and with reduced GHGs, so it's a fantastic announcement on all fronts," Wilhelm-Morden said.

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