Whistler’s plea for new buses was answered by B.C. Transit this week with delivery of the first of 21 clean diesel buses. The entire fleet will join the fleet by Christmas.
The buses are almost two metres longer and have greater capacity than the buses that have been used in Whistler. As well, they are quieter, more fuel efficient, produce fewer emissions, and are more easily accessed by wheelchairs and strollers, with wider doors, extendible ramps and the ability to “kneel” nine inches.
Mayor Ken Melamed was on hand to take the first ride on Monday.
“Everybody was aware of the need for new buses and the urgency for getting them here this winter, and for that reason I thank (B.C. Transit vice president) Ron (Drolet) for acting so quickly,” he said.
“At a meeting a year and a half ago, I told B.C. Transit that our bus fleet was being held together with duct tape and bailing wire, and they checked it out themselves and decided something needed to be done.”
According to Drolet, Whistler moved to the front of the list after an inspection. Last year the service had over three million riders, and the highest cost recovery of any bus service in the province, as well as the highest per capita ridership in Canada.
The buses will remain in Whistler through the 2010 Games, supplementing the fleet which will expand with 20 hydrogen fuel cell buses that will be delivered in 2009. After the Games, all of the new diesel buses could be sent to other communities, but some may stay in Whistler to supplement the fleet of 28 vehicles.
The Whistler and Valley Express winter season is being phased in this week, with the Creekside Express running from Oct. 18, the village shuttle starting on Nov. 27, and the expanded winter season underway on Dec. 10.
Meanwhile, the Howe Sound School District is also getting new “clean-technology” buses.
The provincial government announced last week that it is providing $275,600 for the purchase of two new diesel school buses. The funding is in addition to the $665,000 and five new diesel buses announced previously, bringing the province’s total investment in buses in the district to nearly $1 million.
“I am proud that our new buses support the province’s clean air and climate change initiatives,” West Vancouver-Garibaldi MLA Joan McIntyre said in a release. “Our government is continually looking for new initiatives to reduce our carbon footprint, and with these buses we get the added bonus of significantly lowering operating costs.”
The provincial government has invested $10.4 million for 86 new buses across the province. These new buses reduce exhaust particulate emissions by 90 per cent compared to the previous 1994 standard.