BC Transit has announced that a new operator has been found for the bus routes in Pemberton, including public transportation for Lil’wat Nation community members to Mount Currie.
In June, Mark Hunter, owner of Pemberton Taxi — which also ran the bus service between Mt. Currie and Pemberton — anounced he would be retiring, leaving officials scrambling to make sure the service continued. After negotiations, the Village reached an agreement with the taxi service to extend the operating contract until the end of the summer.
On Sept. 1, BC Transit announced that it had reached an agreement with PWTransit Canada and Whistler Transit to operate routes in the Pemberton Valley. PWTransit already operates bus routes in small municipalities in the province including Fort St. John, Dawson Creek, Port Alberni, Prince George, Squamish and Whistler. The company is a part of Calgary-based Pacific Western Transportation.
“BC Transit would like to thank its partners at the Province of B.C., the Village of Pemberton, Lil’wat First Nation, Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, PWTransit Canada and Whistler Transit for their commitment to transit in the Pemberton Valley,” said a press release put out by BC Transit.
The release also thanked Pemberton Taxi for “their years of service” and noted that schedules, routes and fares will remain the same.
Currently the valley has a commuter service that runs between Pemberton and Whistler four times a day, route 99 Commuter, run by Whistler Transit. The cash fare for the service is $4.50 per adult and $4 for students and seniors.
A second local service, 100 Pemberton Local, previously run by Pemberton Taxi, connects the village with Xit’olacw and Mt Currie to the east. The service makes seven trips a day and local service cash fares are $2.50 per adult and $2 for students and seniors.
“I think it’s wonderful the service is continuing, it’s certainly needed in this area for residents, especially in Mount Currie,” said Shirley Henry of the Pemberton and District Chamber of Commerce. “For people that work in Pemberton and Whistler, there’s a lot that take that bus regularly.”
Henry said as far as she knows, taxi service in the valley will not return. She said residents felt it was already difficult to secure a taxi in the evening at local bars, for example, but now it won’t be an option.
According to data from BC Transit, 1.5 per cent of all trips made in the Pemberton Valley are currently bus riders. The Transit Future Plan for the Sea to Sky region lists increased midday service as a goal by 2020. The local communities of Sunstone, D’Arcy/N’Quatqua, Benchlands, Hillside, Tiyata and Benchlands are all identified as potential future growth areas.
In past years service in the valley has been funded through a partnership between the Village, the Squamish Lillooet Regional District and the Lil’wat Nation. New budget numbers are reviewed annually in the spring.