Transit hikes not just Whistler’s problem 

Communities in B.C. feeling strain of increased transit costs

Whistler is not alone in its transit woes.

Other communities throughout B.C. are facing similar budgetary strains as the costs to run transit continue to go up.

And while those communities may not have the same brand-new multi-million dollar transit facility or a fleet of new buses, as in Whistler, there are commonalities to the rising costs - fuel, labour, and BC Transit's management fee are all on the increase.

There is some "comfort in company" said Councillor Chris Quinlan, who was one of four municipal representatives to attend a meeting with other BC Transit customers in Richmond last week.

"This isn't something that is strictly being dealt with in Whistler," he added.

"The upshot of that is that the solutions are not all Whistler's to find."

One of the other players at the table last week was the Regional District of Nanaimo.

The district's general manager of transportation and solid waste, Dennis Trudeau, said in addition to the rising costs of labour and fuel, there are also increases to debt service and transit's management fee.

Specifically, in the regional district, the debt service costs have gone up 25 per cent, and the management fee has increased 80 per cent in the last three years.

"We're hoping that BC Transit can come up with a plan that holds the line in increasing costs," said Trudeau.

BC Transit is in the process of reviewing its costs. It did not return the Pique's phone calls as of press time Tuesday.

In Whistler, transit's budget has gone up $3.7 million this year, and while some of that money has gone to service new subdivisions, the rest is to cover the increased costs.

It caused a huge municipal headache as council tried to balance the 2011 budget.

In the end, after raising fares and cutting the Squamish commuter and chopping from elsewhere in the municipal budget, council simply said it could not find $1.1 million to maintain the status quo for transit.

Whistler and BC Transit are now working together for a resolution to the problem.

"There's a lot of work that is being done with transit going forward," said Quinlan.

BC Transit will be at tonight's council meeting with a presentation on performance monitoring. Council will then be asked for a second time to approve the Annual Operating Agreement that stretches until the end of September 2011.

Two weeks ago council refused to pass that agreement until transit had reported back on the much sought after performance indicators to ensure good service in the resort.

A transit service review will be presented to council in the coming weeks.





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