Squamish council unanimously approved a Squamish-Whistler commuter bus pilot project at Tuesdays council meeting.
The service, expected to start Jan. 3 and run daily on a trial basis to April 24, still has to approved by Whistler council and the SLRD. Squamish, Whistler and B.C. Transit will fund the service.
The pilot project will receive a $40,000 grant from B.C. Transit but it is not expected to cover all its costs. The projected loss to be swallowed by Squamish and Whistler is $63,000, each.
B.C. Transit will present an Evaluation Report on the success of the pilot project to both councils in May.
A preliminary service schedule between Whistler and Squamish has three trips daily in each direction. The bus will leave downtown Squamish at approximately 6:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., and will arrive in Whistler Village about an hour later. Southbound, the bus will leave Whistler at 7:45 a.m., 5 p.m. and midnight. The time the buses arrive in Whistler are "based on when shifts routinely start and end in Whistler, not when the ski day ends or begins," said Kim Anema, chief administrative officer for the District of Squamish.
B.C. Transit will be monitoring the project on a daily basis once it gets started.
"The bottom line in determining if this is a successful pilot is ridership," said Anema. "With our biggest challenge being what to do if the bus is full."
The one-way adult fare will be $3, student and seniors will ride for $2. Monthly passes will be available for $75 and a book of 10 passes for $27. Only people who can prove they work in Whistler and live in Squamish will be eligible to buy the monthly pass.
"The intent is to serve the workers first," said Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland.
How the pilot project may serve a skier or rider who lives in Squamish and wishes to take the bus to the Whistler is unclear.
"It is unlikely there will be ski racks along the side of the bus," said Scott Pass, manager of Squamish and Whistler Transit. "However, you will be able to bring your skis or board on the bus with you."
The number of seats available on the bus has not yet been determined.
"More will be known once Whistler council votes on the project," said Pass. That is expected to happen at councils Dec. 20 meeting.
One way to keep the service running full time that has been discussed is to establish a corridor wide gas tax. "That idea hasnt been dropped, however theres a long process involved to establish a regional transit authority," said Sutherland.
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