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Whistlerites have their say on transportation

Online survey garners strong response

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The results of the resort's transportation survey are in, providing feedback that will help the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) guide the future direction of transportation in the community.

"We asked people to be part of the conversation, and they were," said municipal transportation planner Emma DalSanto.

The survey attracted 520 participants online who were asked a series of questions that paralleled the questions posed at a January Community Transportation Forum.

The responses reflected a wide array of strategies put forth by residents on such major transportation files as traffic, parking and public transit.

Steve Anderson, council's appointee to the Transportation Advisory Group (TAG), explained how the public's input would be used in future decision making.

"We're going to look at every idea that's presented to us and see what rises to the surface and what makes sense," he said. "There's a lot of things that will fall by the wayside right away (since some recommendations fall outside of the municipality's purview)."

Respondents were polled on which action items they favoured, and none fell below the 50-per-cent mark. The measures that gained the most support were: expanding basic BC Transit service (85 per cent); synchronizing traffic lights on Highway 99 (84 per cent); studying highway intersections (81 per cent); and improving bus service to the resort from Metro Vancouver and the Vancouver International Airport (81 per cent).

Several of the most popular recommendations from the public are already in the works. Whistler Transit, for instance, will offer free service on weekends this summer, and the resort's fleet will be equipped with real-time GPS tracking in 2018 — a move Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden believes will motivate people to leave their car at home.

Sixty-one per cent of respondents supported using parking revenue to fund expanded transit service, with several comments suggesting pay parking be added to day lots 6, 7 and 8.

Wilhelm-Morden, who swept into office in 2011 when pay parking was a hot-button issue, said she would support expanding pay parking in the resort as long as revenues are put towards transit.

"What the previous council did (was) institute pay parking in order to raise revenues to dump into the general revenue fund, and I quite firmly believed that that was wrong," she explained. "But, going back to the late '90s, the thinking was that if there was going to be paid parking, that those revenues had to be used for transit and transit improvement."

Meanwhile, a study launched by B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation is underway that will look at traffic light synchronization and intersections on Highway 99. The results of a separate provincial study assessing road closures on Highway 99 are expected next month.

Discussions are also underway between Tourism Whistler and the Vancouver Airport Authority on ways to improve shuttle service between YVR and the resort.

A common thread through many residents' feedback centred on a perceived lack of action on behalf of the RMOW in dealing with traffic congestion, with many comments proposing solutions "like we had during the Olympics." Wilhelm-Morden understands the frustration, but iterated that these solutions, which in many cases involve multiple stakeholders, won't develop overnight.

"It is frustrating for some people. They think, 'Just build a third lane between Function and Creekside and that will solve everything,'' she said. (One of the proposed action items for Highway 99 that received strong support was installing a counter-flow lane during peak periods.)

"Well, we want to make sure to look at the evidence, find the facts, and then make recommendations to council and our partners that make sense. It may take a little bit longer to do it, but we will have positive outcomes."

Officials will consider TAG's Draft Transportation Action Plan at the May 23 meeting of council.

To see the survey results in full, visit www.whistler.ca.

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