BC Transit has yet to make public a transit service review into Pemberton that it promised to provide in June.
Council members with the Village of Pemberton say they received a confidential draft of a service review in September, a report that is expected to provide a basis for increased transit service to the valley. But they don't yet know when they'll receive a report they can make public.
That fact made for a confusing committee of the whole meeting on Oct. 19, as council grappled with a proposal to increase transit fares without a service review in front of them.
The proposal, which was not circulated to the public or included in the agenda, apparently suggests that transit fares be increased 20 to 30 per cent in order to pay for increased transit service in the Pemberton Valley. Service increases are expected to see BC Transit service ramp up from four to six buses a day between Whistler and Pemberton.
Councillor Susie Gimse said the proposed increases were put forward on the assumption that the Crown Corporation would increase its own contributions to public transit. She said council's "hands are tied" in terms of the cost, and that if fares aren't increased they'll have to find a way to subsidize the increase by increasing costs elsewhere.
Councillor Lisa Ames agreed, but said council ought to wait until it gets the service review before it decides whether to increase fares.
"I agree, we're going to be looking at an increase (in fares)," she said. "I guess my frustration is in the fact that we get this sheet of proposed increases, but we don't 'have anything from BC Transit. So it's not accurate, so when are we getting it?"
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy responded that the service review has been imminent... for a month. Council then passed a motion for staff to follow up with regard to the review and coordinate with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District and the Mount Currie Band to hold a public meeting about transit in the valley.
Other items that came up at the Committee of the Whole included a review of the future of Pemberton's Economic Development Commission, which was set up in 2006 to take advantage of 2010 Olympic opportunities and promote business in both the village and Area C of the SLRD. The bylaw that establishes the commission expires at the end of this year.
Sturdy suggested that council support the extension of the service and change the bylaw to allow that. He said council could debate as time goes on over the next couple of months how much money should be going into the service. The annual cost of the service is currently $60,000.
"Just because the service continues to exist, doesn't mean it has to be active," he said. "My recommendation to council is for us to amend the bylaws in a way that would perhaps reflect a more general, absolutely reflect a general initiative as opposed to a scientific one, keep the service in place and vigorously debate what our recommendation in terms of the requisition should be."
Gimse, who has participated in the commission for the last three years as a representative of Electoral Area C, said it's had some successes but that it needs a new model.
"Sometimes I felt like we were doing the work of Tourism Pemberton, at other times I felt like we were doing the work of the Pemberton Chamber," she said. "What I remember most of all is a couple of years of high levels of frustration. That was in part because we as a group could not clearly articulate what we wanted to look like at the end of the day."
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