If housing was the issue of 1995, transportation is likely to be the issue of 1996 in the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
Not that either matter has suddenly snuck up on Whistler; both are issues because of the success and popularity of Whistler — a goal everyone has worked toward for years — and both have been building for years.
Now, with buildout in sight, long-term housing solutions are coming forward. A number of projects are proposed for this year but the debate on whether the cap on bed units should be raised to allow more affordable housing, and the mechanisms to keep that housing affordable, is just beginning.
Similarly, transportation — both to and from Whistler and within Whistler — is about to be addressed now that the fate of most of the land in this narrow valley has been determined. Transportation is perhaps a more complex issue than housing in that it isn’t just a physical problem; i.e. building more and better roads to and from Whistler or within Whistler is not the answer. Transportation solutions involve a change of attitude, something far more difficult to achieve.
Several years ago the municipality showed good foresight and took one of the first major steps toward solving transportation problems with the introduction of a bus service. Now it’s a matter of getting more people to use it.
However, the municipality lost an opportunity to raise the issue in the public’s mind over the holidays. After the daily gridlock in the village and on Highway 99 last Christmas the municipality could have promoted buses, trains and car pooling in the Lower Mainland prior to this Christmas.
But traffic over the holidays is only one aspect of the transportation issue. The bypass route, satellite parking lots, improved rail service, the loss of parking lots in the village area and increased traffic on Highway 99 between the village and Whistler Creek are all aspects that have to be integrated into an overall transportation plan for Whistler. A public forum at the end of the month will be the next opportunity to work on that overall plan. Once a plan is determined, implementation should include efforts to change attitudes about transportation.