Transit planning underway 

BC Transit launches 25-year planning process

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The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) is supporting BC Transit's work on a Transit Future Plan for the region. At it's monthly board meeting, the elected SLRD representatives approved the terms of reference for the plan.

The SLRD is collaborating with the District of Squamish, the Village of Pemberton, the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the Lil'wat Nation and the Squamish Nation to create the plan, which will ultimately be written by BC Transit.

The first step is to gather transit feedback from people in the Sea to Sky corridor. Jack Crompton, the SLRD representative for Whistler, was at the first public consultation initiative in Squamish on Tuesday, March 25.

"They're going to be all over the regional district with opportunities for input," said Crompton. "We want to make sure that we're providing what the transit people want, so I'm grateful BC Transit is taking the time to be here and to listen."

Key to the consultation process is a reconditioned bus transformed into a consultation station complete with interactive activities for adults and kids. The bus will be at the Pemberton Community Centre Friday, March 28 from 3 to 5 p.m. then it will roll down to Meadow Park Sports Centre the next day with a consultation period between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. The final planned visit is set for Sunday, March 30 at Totem Hall in Squamish from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

The goal of the project is to create a 25-year transit plan for the region.

Regional transit will be explored through the project but Crompton sees it as a conundrum.

"We're now up over 80 per cent of our (employee) population living in Whistler," said Crompton. "Commuters are still a vital and important part to our community, but when I hear members of other communities talk about regional transit, the key link that most people seem to be talking about is between Squamish and Vancouver."

The SLRD asked BC Transit to look at alternate funding mechanisms, including a possible fuel tax.

A 25-year planning report is expected from BC Transit within the next 12 months.

Commuter bus usage up, revenue down

More people than ever are using the number 99 bus between Pemberton and Whistler. Statistics released as part of the SLRD budget process shows ridership, so far this year, is up 25 per cent from the same period last year.

With 2014 budgeting work underway the SLRD, the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Lil'wat Nation plan to spend a combined total of $118,889 over the course of 2014 to fund the Pemberton Valley Transit System. The plan calls for a continuation of the current 40-40-20 cost sharing agreement. The VOP and Lil'wat Nation have each been contributing 40 per cent of the costs while the SLRD has picked up the remaining 20 per cent and taken responsibility for overseeing all the contracts associated with the service.

SLRD budget data shows the cost per ride in 2013 was estimated at $13.49 and the revenue collected per ride was $4.84. Only 24 per cent of the cost of running the commuter service in 2013 was covered by fares collected from users of the service. The amount collected from riders in 2012 was higher at 27 per cent.

The costs recovered from the local transit service operating in Pemberton was much higher in 2013 at 43.4 per cent.

According to a report written by SLRD staff, the cost recovery target is 30 per cent.

Pemberton gets food scrap collection program

A food scrap collection pilot program for Pemberton was approved at this month's regular meeting of the SLRD board.

Starting April 5 food scrap collection bins will be placed at the Pemberton Transfer Station.

Kitchen food waste, including meat and bones, will be accepted at the transfer station along with flowers, food containers marked as being certified compostable, paper or cardboard contaminated by food and small quantities of clean sawdust, woodchips and shavings.

To kick off the pilot program, 100 Pemberton residents can pick up a plastic kitchen catcher for their home by visiting the transfer station on April 5.

An information brochure is being produced and newspaper advertising is being purchased to help spread the word about the food waste collection program.

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