Whistler’s local politicians say the provincial government has addressed several concerns they expressed to an independent review of B.C. Transit operations.
The three-person review panel heard the concerns of local governments across B.C., including Whistler’s, and solicited suggestions on how the province could improve its transit service. The review resulted in 18 recommendations to the province that were released in August and last week the province responded to them at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities Convention.
A primary concern shared by many communities was the level of consultation between municipalities and B.C. Transit, a Crown-operated agency tasked with organizing public transportation in 58 communities outside of Metro Vancouver.
“Our aim in this response is to strengthen the partnership between local governments and B.C. Transit with better information sharing and a more open decision making process while recognizing that this partnership must be flexible enough to accommodate the unique needs of every community,” said newly-appointed Transportation Minister Mary Polak in the province’s official response.
This issue was of specific interest to the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW), as there was no consultation between B.C. Transit and local officials before the 2010 construction of a local transit facility for which Whistler continues to pay 53 per cent of, with the province covering the rest.
Coun. John Grills, who was in Victoria last week for the UBCM convention, stressed the importance of “having input (from B.C. Transit) on big capital spending so that it isn’t just sort of handed to you.”
Another concern for the RMOW was that the fiscal schedules of B.C. Transit and the municipality’s differed, making it “extremely difficult to budget” for transit costs, according to Coun. Jack Crompton, who sits on Whistler’s Transit Management Advisory Committee.
While the province made no commitment to altering its fiscal year, there were talks at the UBCM summit to have municipalities enter into a three-year Annual Operating Agreement, making it easier for local governments’ to budget ahead of time. The current agreement with B.C. Transit is one year.
“Hopefully this means that the working relationship between B.C. Transit and municipalities will be a lot more positive,” said Crompton.
The province was also receptive to a recommendation that Whistler supported that would allow for local government to nominate representatives to B.C. Transit’s Board of Directors, which will be considered by the transportation minister.
While portions of the provincial response to the review seemed vague, Crompton chalked it up to legislative red tape.
“If (the response) seems a little cloudy, what’s coming across is that stuff hasn’t been legislated yet,” he said. “Some of the things they just can’t do (yet). It requires a change in law.”
Crompton hopes that B.C. Transit will follow through on its many promises, saying “the next six months will be an interesting time to see which of these things is made policy by the provincial government.”