Transit users in Whistler are facing a 19 per cent reduction in service going forward, but that's far less than one of the three options that the municipality considered as part of its transit service review.
The municipality is in the process of completing a schedule that will show what that reduced service will look like. A sneak peak of the plan may be available as early as the Oct. 18 council meeting.
According to Mayor Ken Melamed, the exercise has been a challenge and will result in both an increase in transit funding and decrease in the level of service. It was a compromise, he said, that other local governments around the province are also having to make.
"We've been attending the BC Transit information updates at the UBCM every year, so there was some advance warning. They've been forecasting significant increases in costs, and I think the reality is that costs have grown in excess of forecasts - they were saying 10 per cent, but it appears they've gone up again."
Melamed said he was less interested in understanding the percentages than he is in how the Resort Municipality of Whistler is going to rationalize the service, cut its size and bring down the funding gap.
"My view, and it's safe to say that I speak on behalf of council, is that we remain committed to providing transit," he said. "I know a lot of employees count on the service, and it speaks to the affordability of living here. You don't have to own a car and pay insurance, which is a critical factor for the success of the resort community.
"The question is how do we provide that affordability option for our workforce, the community and visitors that want to use the service. But we also need to be responsible. We just can't afford the level of service that we've been enjoying."
At the Sept. 6 council meeting, a plan was approved in principle that will see the service hours for Whistler reduced to 60,500 hours annually from a recent high of roughly 75,000 hours. One option considered, which would freeze funding at current 2010-2011 levels, would have resulted in service cuts to roughly 30,000 hours per year, while the "minimally acceptable solution" put forward by the municipality and BC Transit called for additional funding to reach 58,600 hours.
After taking input from the public on the different options, council and staff have decided to pursue the minimally acceptable option while making changes to the plan based on public feedback that will add 1,900 hours to service levels. That solution will require a $1.1 million increase in funding this year.