The rainy season has arrived and snow has begun to accumulate in the mountains. As the ski season approaches, so too does the ninth anniversary of the fatal car crash that brought public transit to the Sea to Sky Highway between Squamish and Whistler.
Transit began as a seasonal, winter only, service carrying commuters, shoppers and skiers in both directions between the two communities. It was popular. It was affordable. For many it provided a safe option to driving. For others, living without cars in Squamish, it was an affordable way to get to work on the ski hills. It provided a way for seasonal workers and the elderly in Whistler to shop, access medical and government services and find a reprieve from the fulltime resort experience.
After three years of seasonal operation it proved so successful that it became a year-round operation. Instead of the available, affordable buses that had been used in the past, new, expensive buses were purchased. Instead of the available, affordable transit facility that had been used in the past, a new, expensive transit facility was built in Whistler. Instead of raising fares to reflect the increased costs, fares remained the same.
Is it any surprise that municipal politicians eventually noticed that it was becoming too expensive to operate? After a sudden, 60 per cent increase in fares and three temporary extensions to operations, Sea to Sky Transit joined B.C. Rail service and the early morning Greyhound trip to Vancouver as part of our transportation history.
Since the 2006 Census our population has increased by about 15 per cent. Highway use increases by about 10 per cent per year. The number of people who commute from Squamish to Whistler or Metro Vancouver probably exceeds either of them. B.C. Transit seems to have given up. Local politicians donít seem to know where to start. The idea of asking TransLink for help seems to make many people irate, even as they drive to Vancouver across the TransLink supported bridges.
Now, we eagerly await the decision of the B.C. Passenger Transportation Board. Will they allow Greyhound to cut their minimum required service†from eight trips per day to four?
Public Transit and planned transportation do exist. On the Sunshine Coast there is public transit, seven days per week, connecting all of the communities between Halfmoon Bay and Langdale. Langdale provides access to Horseshoe Bay and all of the transportation options of Metro Vancouver.
All across North America, young people are choosing not to own cars. Instead of remaining in small towns and rural communities, they move to areas where a car isnít needed. All across North America older people are choosing to move to cities where they can have access to all the services they need without owning a car.
In the Sea to Sky Corridor we are increasingly making cars the only means of transportation. What will it take to change the attitudes and actions along the Sea to Sky Corridor?