Deal restores 2,000 hours to bus service 

First phase of winter transit schedule rolling out next week

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Negotiations between the Resort Municipality of Whistler and BC Transit have led to 2,000 hours of new bus service through the return of some fees to the RMOW.

A Memorandum of Understanding on these issues was signed by the two parties at this week's regular council meeting.

Said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden: "I would like to thank BC Transit for working with the Resort Municipality of Whistler to solve this outstanding item. Signing this MOU will mean that a significant amount of money is placed back into the Whistler Transit System to augment existing transit services.

 "This funding will help us to continue to provide cost-effective transit services to community members and resort guests, while supporting our commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

A transit review in 2011 found that the RMOW was required to pay fees of $175,100 related to 12 Dennis Dart buses, which had previously operated in Whistler, until 2015. Under the new MOU, the RMOW and BC Transit have agreed to direct these fees back into the local transit service. As part of the agreement, BC Transit will provide an additional $153,356 to fund expanded transit services. 

In the fall of 2011, the Whistler and Valley Express was forced to adjust service levels to reflect growing costs, resulting in a complete review of services and schedules to meet the new reality. The result was a 15.1 per cent decline in service hours (75,000 to 68,000), a seven per cent decline in revenues and an 11 per cent decline in ridership. However, the number of rides per hour (41 in 2010-2011) did increase with fewer buses on the road, with an average of 43 riders or an increase of five per cent.

When asked this week, the municipality said it was not anticipating any cutbacks to service this winter, and that stakeholders in the service (BC Transit, the Resort Municipality of Whistler and Whistler Transit Ltd.) would work together to monitor the performance of the system and decide where to allocate the additional 2,000 hours of service they will be providing.

It's unknown when those hours would kick in, but a press release suggested it wouldn't happen until spring of 2013.

There will be two schedules this winter. The early winter schedule gets underway on Nov. 17, and the full winter schedule will follow four weeks later on Dec. 13.

Some of the announced service changes for this winter include the return of bus service to Blueberry Hill, the routing of additional buses to Function Junction and Emerald Estates, and the fact that all Valley Connector service will continue to stop at the Gondola Transit Exchange — unlike the start of last winter when riders boarding the Valley Connector had to get off elsewhere in the village and either walk or take the Village Shuttle to the ski lifts.

Early winter schedule highlights:

• WAVE will adjust, restart or ramp-up service to Spruce Gold/White Gold, south Whistler (Whistler Creek, Tamarisk, Cheakamus Crossing, Function Junction), Blueberry Hill and morning service through Alta Vista.

• The express service will resume to Whistler Creek only.

• The free winter Village Shuttle returns, including the #4 Marketplace Shuttle and the #5 Upper Village/Benchlands Shuttle.

• Additional buses and services will be on the road through the American Thanksgiving weekend, Nov. 22 to Nov. 25.

Full winter schedule highlights:

• All Valley Connector buses will be routed through the Gondola Transit Exchange. Northbound buses will stop at Post 3 at the exchange, and southbound buses will stop at Post 2.

• Full winter service will be offered on all routes with no further ramp-ups planned (although there could be changes as a result of the 2,000 increased service hours).

• Weekend levels of service will now include Fridays and holiday Mondays (both Canadian and American).

• Additional late night services will be added to handle heavy passenger loads.

• Routes 1, 2 and 3 will be combined in the Rider's Guide to make it easier to understand routes and options.

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