Although Whistler’s transit system slipped to number four in total ridership in the province, it remains the top performer. With 36.8 riders for each hour in service, Whistler and Valley Express (WAVE) has the highest number of riders per capita in the province.
Transit manager Scott Pass says the village’s linear design, free village shuttle and demographics encourage healthy ridership numbers.
“Lots of people move to town when they can’t afford a car so they start off using the system out of need and as they get used to using the bus it becomes more convenient than to drive a car,” he said.
Although Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops had greater overall rider numbers, Pass says when population and hours of service are factored in Whistler’s system remains the most efficient. Convenience continues to be the key to getting people on the bus, he added.
“If they can get a bus at Creekside every five minutes during the winter and 10-15 in the summer and that drops them right off where they’re skiing or working it doesn’t make sense to drive,” he said.
Whistler’s transit system operates 22.5 hours a day with 130 hours per day of service in the summer and 250 in the winter.
The provincial transit authority’s senior vice-president said rising fuel prices and post-secondary U-Pass initiatives caused a spike in ridership numbers in Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna. But Whistler’s numbers still continue to impress.
“In terms of numbers of passengers per amounts of service delivered even I’m amazed,” said Steve New. “We’ve all seen crowded buses in Vancouver and to think that the number of people carried per hour of service in Whistler is higher than even Vancouver on average is a great accomplishment.”
New said Whistler Mountaineer’s arrival in town is an indication of the versatility of Whistler’s transit system. Whistler Mountaineer pays a flat fee for 150-200 guests to be transferred daily from Creekside to Whistler village in two-five WAVE buses.
Overall, B.C. Transit ridership increased four per cent in 2005-06 in the 69 systems it operates in the province, surpassing the national 2.5 per cent increase. B.C. also had average higher rides per capita, 27.1, than other provinces with 25.8.