Bike racks for buses
transit committee has bus load of ideas
By Chris Woodall
Bike racks on Whistler's buses will be a summertime feature if the transit committee has its way with municipal council.
"We have to put in a request for money in the budgeting process," explained councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, chair of the transit committee.
Four to five buses at any one time would have the racks mounted on the front. The racks would be removable so buses in service would carry them despite other buses being in the shop, Wilhelm-Morden said.
The racks can only hold two bicycles at a time, side-by-side. Placing racks along the side of the bus would make the vehicle too wide for the road.
The transit committee is also aware that some buses in San Francisco pull bicycle trailers allowing more riders to bring their two-wheeled ponies along.
Riders would place the bikes on the bus themselves.
The transit committee is also keen on automatic coin cards that operate like a debit card: the rider slips it into a reader slot beside the coin box and a computer display tells the driver if the card is valid, Wilhelm-Morden explained.
The cards are being tested on buses in the Comox-Strathcona Regional District on Vancouver Island. The cards would be good for a set number of rides, or would replace the current monthly bus pass, she said. "There's no paper and no money changes hands."
An express bus linking Emerald Estates and Function Junction is also being contemplated by the transit committee. It would only stop along the highway, avoiding detours into residential areas or the village, so riders can get to the extreme ends of Whistler much faster than is currently possible, Wilhelm-Morden said.
"A number of people suggested to me that they can't use the bus because it takes too long" to get from one end of town to the other, the transit chair added.
Whistler Transit will survey residents and current bus riders to gauge the amount of interest in such a service. "But there's a limited number of buses, so if we did offer this service we would have to juggle routes," Wilhelm-Morden added.
An additional bus is pencilled in for the shoulder season, beginning next fall, that would add 4,400 hours of service to the system. "It's part of our growth plan for Whistler," Wilhelm-Morden said. "It means the major routes would keep their 30-minute frequency."
The new Blueberry Hill bus route is a success, the transit committee has found.
"Preliminary results of the extension of transit service through Blueberry Hill are in and indicate that the actual rides are meeting and exceeding the ridership projection originally forecasted by B.C. Transit," according to a committee press release. "Continuation of this service will be reviewed by council in the spring."
"It seems to me that if the route is successful we'd certainly have to maintain it," Wilhelm-Morden said.
The transit committee has also been looking at running a late night bus service that would see service extended until the bars close.
"I want council to talk about it," Wilhelm-Morden said. "No doubt we'll have complaints from the taxi company. The late night is seen by the taxis as their turf."
There may be some noise issues of buses going into sub-divisions during the wee hours of the morning, too, she says, as well as operating cost considerations.
Whistler Transit Ltd. is a private company that operates Whistler's buses, supplied by and partially funded by the provincial government's B.C. Transit. The parent company of Whistler Transit is Pacific Western, based in Calgary, Alta.