Translink is taking a close look at its North Shore service as part of its long-term planning work and Squamish is on the map.
One idea being looked at is the possible creation of a new route servicing Furry Creek, Britannia and Squamish.
The planning for transit services south of Squamish is taking place while local politicians continue to struggle with how to revive the Squamish-Whistler commuter bus service that stopped operating at the end of September.
Planning documents released as part of the North Shore transit review indicate ten "near-term" projects are being considered for the North Shore.
The project proposals include improvements to the Park Royal Exchange and to the Phibbs Exchange, redesigns for a few North Shore routes, the addition of a few new routes and an increase to the number of Seabus trips offered during peak hours.
The strength of each potential project is judged on deliverability of the project, impacts on economic development, the environment, land use, other transportation systems and communities along with finance issues and how the project aligns strategically with longer-term goals.
The expansion to Squamish scores low on most of the judgment criteria being used by Translink. One key detail pointed out by Translink is the fact that the area north of Lions Bay is not within Translink's service area. B.C. Transit is the public transit authority currently overseeing pubic transportation north of Lions Bay.
Squamish resident Murray Gamble, a strong advocate for increased transit service in the Sea to Sky corridor, believes from what he has seen of Translink's information that Translink is working from "rough speculation."
"I don't think they really put a lot of work into that (a potential route to Squamish)," said Gamble.
According to Translink, the route would have "low cost-effectiveness driven by low demand" and reliability could be compromised by weather and road conditions.
Gamble believes there are about 1,500 regular Vancouver-bound commuters living between Squamish and Lions Bay and he feels Translink will discover demand for a commuter service is high if commuters were surveyed. He also noted the highway is safer and more reliable since it was improved before the Olympic Winter Games in 2010.
Gamble attended two public meetings this month aimed at getting feedback on the North Shore planning and he said Translink officials were surprised by some of the Sea to Sky statistics he shared, including his belief that 1,500 commuters are travelling from the corridor to Vancouver for work.
The transit advocate, who lives in Squamish and works in Whistler, is calling on others who want to see increased transit service between Whistler and Vancouver to push politicians in the region for it.
"I think that the next step is to make sure that either the District of Squamish and or the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District gets in touch with Translink and the rest of us need to let those bodies know that we're interested," Gamble said.
The current Translink public consultation process will continue through to March 9. More information can be found at www.translink.ca.
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