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Whistler transit details to be revealed

Plan will result in 19 per cent service reduction, but is short $1.1 million



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Melamed said they have not made a decision where that funding will come from at this point, but no further fare increases are being considered. Since 2008, the cost of taking transit in Whistler has increased from $1.50 to $2.50, which puts it on par with transit costs in Vancouver. Some of the revenue ideas being considered include charging to use the village shuttle and renting out space and facilities at the new transit depot to commercial operators - an option that would need approval from the Ministry of Transportation.

Melamed said the breakdown of why costs have increased should be included in the final report. They did ask BC Transit to look at issues such as the new transit facility and hydrogen fleet, and were assured that there was no impact. In fact, the review did uncover one cost that was being paid by the municipality that should have been covered by the separate hydrogen bus pilot project.

"We specifically asked that question," said Melamed.

"Is the facility the right size? Has hydrogen impacted the cost? And the answer to both questions came back 'no.' Council is satisfied the questions have been asked and answered, and that the hydrogen bus fleet is providing a great benefit to the community with 20 zero emissions buses that are brand new."

Some of the other reasons given for the skyrocketing cost of transit include rising fuel prices, rising insurance rates and rising wages for staffers. As well, the municipality is paying for the purchase of new buses in its annual budget.

Whistler's new transit facility at Nesters, which includes Canada's largest hydrogen refuelling station, does have a capital cost. The RMOW is on the hook for $11 million of the construction costs, which will be paid back to BC Transit over a period of 30 years.

The financials of the transit service review will be presented to council before the winter schedule starts on Nov. 23, as well as suggestions how the municipality can make up the $1.1 million shortfall.

Under the funding model, provincial costs will also increase. The RMOW pays 53.31 per cent of the budget, with BC Transit matching 46.69 per cent.

The new schedule will attempt to boost service to high service routes while cutting transit to areas that have low ridership and lower cost recovery. For example, said Melamed, service to Emerald Estates will be reduced, while a valley bus service will connect Alpine to Cheakamus Crossing without venturing into any neighbourhoods.

"The message from this council is that there are going to be changes. We already know what some will look like," he said. "And we still have a funding challenge."