BC Transit releases plan to connect Whistler to Squamish and Vancouver

The entire Sea to Sky Corridor could be connected by 2020

BC Transit has released a major report that outlines details for a potential transit route that would connect the entire Sea to Sky corridor before 2020, including a $3.3-million price tag.

Lisa Trotter, BC Transit’s senior regional transit manager for the South Coast, called the report “an exciting milestone.”

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It provides final facts and figures that could support the business model for transit service along the entire corridor, connecting Mount Currie to Vancouver.

The report proposes six round trips on weekdays, and four round trips on weekends between Whistler, Squamish and Metro Vancouver. The existing route serving the Pemberton Valley would be expanded with two new daily round trips.

In total, there would be 15,100 service hours required, and the total cost would be $3.3 million. Funding would be split between the provincial government, which would contribute $1.4 million and the various local governments, which would need to contribute $1.9 million. 

Revenue from tickets and passes would offset the local share of costs.

If local governments and the provincial government can successfully negotiate funding and a governance structure, the improvements could be implemented in under two years, according to Trotter.

“Those things could take time. If we get them done in time, then we could look at a Sept. 2019 implementation. If not, it might fall a little further down the road,” she said.

Having less traffic congestion on Highway 99, having a regional transit system, all those things are important to keep this economic engine going, 

Whistler mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden said the topic of a transit route for the entire corridor has been an important discussion between region officials and new NDP ministers, including transportation minister Claire Trevena and finance minister Carole James. 

The Oct. 2017 report is part of that process.

“We had seen this report before it was made public, so we knew what it contained,” said Wilhelm-Morden.

“Certainly, this minister is supportive of transit, regional transit in particular. We had some suggestions for her about the governance model, and we also talked to her about funding, it was all well received.”

The mayor acknowledged the competition for transit funding, but said Whistler’s contribution to the province’s GDP is a reason to make the corridor a priority.

“Having less traffic congestion on Highway 99, having a regional transit system, all those things are important to keep this economic engine going,” she said.

The mayor said the route connecting to Whistler would have a variety of purposes. It would improve and expand commuting access for people who work in the resort but live in Mount Currie, Pemberton or Squamish. 

Wilhelm-Morden also hopes the route might be used by visitors from the Lower Mainland, which would reduce traffic congestion, particularly on heavy tourist days.

She said right now many rely on their own vehicles or the Greyhound Bus.

Earlier this year Greyhound Canada asked permission from the province to cut a bus route that connects the University Endowment Lands in Vancouver to Whistler.

“I can’t think of the year where Greyhound hasn’t cut their service in some fashion. If we had our own regional transit system, it would certainly make everyone less reliant on Greyhound, which would be a good thing,” said Wilhelm-Morden

The Sea to Sky Corridor Regional Transit Study was a collaboration between the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the District of Squamish, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Village of Pemberton, the Lil’wat and Squamish Nations, BC Transit, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and TransLink.

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