New CNG buses begin rolling out

Also in briefs: RMOW commits to resident housing recommendations

Whistler Transit’s New Year’s resolution will see their fleet of buses get a little greener in 2018.

New compressed natural gas (CNG) BC Transit buses are rolling out onto Whistler routes in the coming weeks, as part of a full fleet replacement for the resort’s public transit, BC Transit announced late last month.

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Work is also currently nearing completion on the CNG fuelling and compressor station, which, along with the buses themselves, is being funded by nearly $160 million in federal and provincial funding for BC Transit projects. FortisBC, which will be supplying the natural gas, is also doling out $539,500 to help offset initial costs.

Each of the 25 new XN40 Xcelsior New Flyer buses can carry 36 seated passengers and 45 standing passengers. The vehicles represent an investment of $17 million.

Aside from the economic and environmental benefits these buses will provide, provincial, federal and local funding for Whistler is supporting the addition of improved technology, including real-time capability that will utilize automatic vehicle locators, allowing passengers to know exactly when their bus will arrive, closed-circuit TV (CCTV) to improve the safety of passengers and drivers and automatic passenger counters, which will enable BC Transit to optimize service delivery based on informed data.

“Transit is a key priority for our community and across the province, and it is initiatives like CNG buses that continue to move us toward improved transit service and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a release. “Thank you to the strong partnerships that came together to make this project happen for Whistler.

RMOW to move forward with housing recommendations

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has opted to move forward with all seven recommendations provided by the Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing, following a report of council on Dec. 19.

The report included a wide variety of evidence, including community input collected through a housing needs survey and the Community Forum held in November. Implementation of these recommendations would see over 1,000 resident restricted beds to the resort’s supply over the next five years.

“Whistler has always emphasized the importance of resident housing and we have been successful in housing 75 per cent of our workforce within our municipal boundaries,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a release. “And in order to continue to do so, with the pressures that started to become more evident in 2016, we knew we needed to rally to look at a variety of short and long-term solutions. Some of these projects were fast tracked earlier in the process and have already delivered results.”

To that end, several of these seven solutions are already underway. Municipal-owned lands are being used to develop resident-restrict homes through the Whistler Housing Authority, including the recently completed rental apartment building and planned expansion in Cheakamus Crossing. This year, the WHA’s eligibility criteria will also be updated and further refined, while new municipal enforcement tools will be introduced.

Private developers will also have the opportunity to build more new, purpose built rental apartments, while infill housing will provide even more beds in existing residential neighborhoods. In July, the municipality introduced a new bylaw requiring business licenses in order to operate nightly rentals, in an effort to ensure residentially-zoned properties are not being used for tourist accommodations, while the RMOW’s Home Run program is matching local businesses looking for staff housing for their employees up with homeowner.

“Housing is a community-wide responsibility,” added Wilhelm-Morden. “It will take the public and private sector working together to deliver these recommended actions and outcomes.”

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