By Loreth Beswetherick
The numbers still need to be tweaked and a few modifications made but the draft of Whistler's Comprehensive Transportation Strategy is just about ready to got to public.
The Transportation Advisory Group met Wednesday to review the final draft, which included input from the public meeting held last December, as well as a budget breakdown and the identification of critical trigger points that will determine when the next sage of the transportation strategy must kick in.
The overall capital cost of the strategy in the draft report was pegged at just over $45 million, with the total annual cost component estimated at around $4 million. The price tag of the strategy will, however, depend on the community's success in implementing transportation demand management — or TDM — measures. The TDMs will employ a carrot and stick approach to transportation. Disincentives, like pay parking, will be coupled with incentives to use public transit. If the TDMs are successful it will take longer to reach trigger points and roads — like the Nita Lake Parkway — may not have to be constructed.
Mayor Hugh O'Reilly said each person can impact the bottom line through their personal travel habits. He said the TAG strategy comes with "big dollars and big ugly numbers" that don't have to be realized.
The TAG goal is to reduce traffic, through the use of TDMs, from 1997 levels by 15 per cent by 2010 or sooner.
TAG members — which include representatives from the mountains, the Whistler Resort Association, the municipality, the Chamber of Commerce, B.C. Transit, B.C. Rail and The Ministry of Highways — however, expressed concern about the accuracy of the budget breakdown.
Both Maria Szalay of the Ministry of Highways and Ross Walker of the Delcan Corporation said the costs, if everything in the strategy is to be implemented, are likely to be much higher. There was also a concern some items had been included that had already been budgeted for or were already an ongoing transportation cost.
The municipality's manager of transportation and drainage, Steve Black, will re-work some of the budget figures before the TAG strategy is presented at the town hall meeting Sept. 25.
The big ticket capital items to date include $23 million for the construction of the proposed Nita Lake Parkway; about $1 million for construction of a village transportation centre; $3.2 million for a cabriolet lift to shuttle skiers from a parking lot to the hills; $1 million for satellite parking south of Whistler, almost $6 million for an HOV lane to Function Junction; $4.2 million for a second permanent southbound lane from the village to Nita Lake and another $3.5 million for a permanent northbound lane between the village and Nita Lake plus $1.6 million for a computerized transportation system to manage and control peak period traffic and parking demands, including changeable message signs to advise drivers on how full the parking lots are.
No breakdown on how the budgeted items would be financed or by whom was presented at this stage. Black emphasized the plan is a fluid, working document.
Some of the trigger points presented Wednesday may also be reworked slightly. The points will be used to determine when a threshold has been reached and a traffic condition has become unacceptable. A total of 11 points have now been quantified. When the following are reached, it is recommended an appropriate TDM measure be implemented to reverse the trend:
o If total skier visits are forecast to exceed 20,000 for a given day;
o If vehicle occupancy decreases from 2.5 people per car;
o If the number of day-skier visits exceeds 6,000 per day more than 10 times in one season;
o If the estimated travel time on Highway 99 from Village Gate Boulevard to Lake Placid Road is equal to, or exceeds, nine minutes at least 30 hours in one year;
o If travel time from Base II to Function is equal to or exceeds 30 minutes at least 10 hours in one year;
o If travel from Base II to Alpine is equal to or exceeds 20 minutes at least 10 hours in one year;
o If the congestion events on Highway 99 last longer than two hours and occur 35 or more times in a year;
o If the hourly traffic count at the Ministry of Highways permanent count station exceeds 935 southbound;
o If the service at an intersection gets a D rating. Currently all operate at a level C of service or better;
o If the number of drivers and passengers increases from the previous year and;
o If the vehicle occupancy in village parking lots 1 through 4 decreases from the previous year. The current goal is 2.5 but that could change to 3.0.
Trigger points for the transit system were not recommended. Jan Voss of Creative Transportation Systems said a transit standards and objectives policy should first be adopted that sets service standards and includes things like vehicle loading standards, crush passenger capacity and service reliability. These standards, he said, should be determined by the municipality, transit staff and other stakeholders and adopted by council. Voss said most transit organizations in Canada, outside of B.C. have a set of such standards which are used as a benchmark in system performance evaluation and budget-related decision making.
The public input worked into the TAG strategy after last December’s public meeting includes: expanding service to Pinecrest and Black Tusk; a long-term objective of making transit free and additional overpasses or underpasses along Highway 99.
Whistler-Blackcomb's Doug Forseth also asked that it be made clear in the plan that a new Whistler south staging area to be accessed from Function be included as an alternative to constructing the Nita Lake Parkway.
Black will modify the plan this week. Changes will be reviewed by TAG members and finalized by Wednesday, Sept. 8.
The TAG strategy has been in the works since 1996.