Murray Gamble's campaign to save the Squamish commuter and see a regional transit system be implemented throughout the Sea to Sky corridor came before the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board at its Monday (Jan. 24) meeting in Pemberton.
Gamble, a Squamish resident who works in Whistler, has spent recent months writing letters to government officials and media outlets while also running a Facebook page devoted to keeping transit rolling along Highway 99. The Squamish commuter bus service currently only has funding in place through to the end of March.
His presentation to the board on Monday called for the Pemberton and Squamish commuters to be synchronized to form a regional system that would carry passengers more efficiently between the two communities. Gamble added that he thinks increased promotion of the service will help fill buses and make such a system sustainable.
"This isn't just a response to having my drive to work threatened," said Gamble. "This is something I've been looking at, thinking about and have written a couple of letters about over the past year-and-a-half."
Gamble also said he would like to see a system in which people can board the bus at more locations in Squamish such as the hospital and Wal-Mart. He also said he thinks Black Tusk Village and Pinecrest Estates should be receiving service if a bus is already going past those developments, noting that a bus pullout was constructed last year with federal gas tax money at Black Tusk that isn't being used.
"I think you should be able to get from Mount Currie, Pemberton or Whistler to the hospital without having to take three buses or hitchhike," he said.
In Gamble's letters and again on Monday, he referenced the transit system that has been running successfully in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley for decades as a possible model to follow. Board chair Susie Gimse said there may be an opportunity to meet with elected officials and the transit authority there in June to discuss their model.
"I do appreciate your letters," she said to Gamble. "I don't think there's any one citizen in this region who has dedicated so much time to understanding and researching the transit systems in all of our communities."
In his writings, Gamble has been very critical of Whistler council for its refusal to fund the commuter bus beyond the end of March, and Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed told Gamble he felt that the tone of some of his letters were inappropriate.
"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I have to caution you on further insulting and disrespectful remarks to staff. I think they are misplaced and unproductive," said Melamed, adding that he felt Gamble had inferred that "we have stupid people running the system."
Gamble said after the meeting that he was hoping to ride the Squamish and Pemberton commuters to make his appearance before the board, but that he had to drive because the bus schedules weren't adequate for him to make the trip.
Garibaldi fire hall going forward
The SLRD will go ahead with its plan to borrow $750,000 to construct a new fire hall serving the Black Tusk and Pinecrest areas after the alternative approval process (AAP) was completed and the board adopted the bylaw authorizing the loan.
The deadline for electors in the area to register any objections to the bylaw was Jan. 10. Seventeen petitions were received by the deadline, falling short of the 24 required to stop the bylaw from proceeding.
There are 179 properties that fall into the Garibaldi fire protection area. The estimated tax requisition for the 25-year loan would go from $0.71 per $1,000 of assessed value to $1.14 -or the equivalent of about $275 extra on a house assessed at $535,000, said SLRD chief administrative officer Paul Edgington.
The board also directed staff to investigate what grants or other funding might be available to reduce the amount that needs to be borrowed to complete the project.
Lawmakers forum scheduled
The board selected Feb. 23 as a date to hold an Elected Officials Forum (EOF) at the Pemberton Community Centre and put a few items on the agenda while also requesting that the district's municipalities provide input on what should be discussed.
During the meeting, Gimse said the EOF would be a beneficial exercise because "it brings not just board members to table but everybody - full councils and staff - and allows for much broader discussions."
The board elected to put regional transit, governance and boundaries and integrated community sustainability planning on the EOF agenda, as those were the top three items from the Jan. 17 Committee of the Whole meeting when discussing the SLRD's 2011 strategic priorities and work plan.