A Squamish commuter's lament

Editor's note: This is a copy of a letter to Whistler's mayor and council.

My name is Mike and I live in Squamish while working in Whistler. I am a regular commuter on the Squamish-Whistler commuter five days a week for my 11 p.m.-to- 7 a.m. shift. I enjoy my job immensely and am still on a probationary period as I only started in August. I intend on working here for as long as I possibly can; however, the recent news of fare increases as well as the threat from Mayor Ken Melamed of discontinuing funding altogether could put my job security at huge risk.

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I am a young adult who is struggling to make ends meet partially due to the high cost of living (even in Squamish) and low poverty in this province. I cannot afford a car because of my wage and the costs of living. I put my rent, food, and clothing first, which usually just means my rent and food. So I rely on the Squamish-Whistler commuter to get me to and from work safely and cost efficiently. What the commuter charges at this current time is more feasible than being one of those single occupants in a vehicle commuting and harming the environment as well as paying a whole ton more for gas. Riding the bus allows me to save on transportation costs, be more green or environmentally friendly, and reduce the risk of an accident or fatality(ies) on the highway just in case I would fall asleep at the wheel. This has happened before.

Learning of the news to raise the prices from $5 to $8 a ride or a monthly pass (my option) from $145 to $232 is ludicrous and robbery. That is an $87 increase and means $87 less that I have for living expenses. And not just wants but needs like food. I know others share my sentiment as one of the advantages of the commuter bus is meeting new people and getting to know those who also live in Squamish and work in Whistler. We work in Whistler because the work is in Whistler. Squamish's employment is scarce and embarrassing as there are no jobs. It is a fact that Whistler employs a majority of those who live in Squamish as others come and go since they work on visas, being from other countries. Those from Squamish offer reliability, punctuality, and are dependable as well as bring long-standing employment partially thanks to being able to get to work because of the commuter.

Here are some other things to consider. On my trips to and from Whistler individuals have boarded the bus paying their $5 to get to Whistler or Squamish and have told me they are living in Whistler. They usually go to Squamish to shop at the grocery stores or Wal-Mart, for example, because it is in their price range as opposed to shopping in Whistler. This is also possible because of the low cost of the commuter bus as it stands now at $5 per ride. There is also a young woman on the bus who lives in Whistler and I see on the morning run from Whistler to Squamish who is going to work. So hey, Mayor Melamed! It works both ways!

Finally, the municipality's manager of development services is dead wrong when he states between 75 and 120 people currently use the system each day. I believe this is a misrepresentation on the numbers as that is each way and only taking into account those who have purchased monthly passes. There are still many others who continue to buy booklets of 10 or pay the $5, especially Whistler residents after a day of shopping in Squamish.

I believe there is more to this story. Sure, the Whistler mayor and some council members are right in saying that Whistler should not be carrying the bulk of the funding, but Whistler is not. As quoted in your article the Province pays for 47 per cent of the costs while Squamish taxpayers take on a higher percentage of the cost than Whistler. Then there is one last thing... what will Whistler do if no one from Squamish could come up to Whistler any more to work because it was no longer feasible? When I buy my lunch, snacks, or coffee here in Whistler, aren't some of my taxes going to the Resort Municipality?

Michael Enders

Squamish

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