The launch of the Olympic bus schedule in Whistler had its hiccoughs - drivers lost and asking passengers for directions, passengers unaware that their monthly transit passes would no longer function, skiers upset to find themselves on Main Street instead of the Gondola Transit Exchange.
Within a few days, however, everything settled into a comfortable rhythm. Locals and drivers figured out their routes, bus riders purchased the proper passes and the bus service added a shuttle from the Main Street transit hub to the gondola.
Then the Games got underway, and another layer of confusion crept in. There were long waits for spectators to get to and from venues and too few buses for spectators at Whistler Olympic Park wishing to attend the medal ceremonies in Whistler that evening.
A local taxi company expressed its frustration with the number of passes they were allotted to get into five Local Vehicle Permit Zones surrounding Olympic venues, with just five passes for each area shared among almost 40 vehicles in the fleet.
Every issue has been dealt with as it has arisen at a Whistler Transportation Centre that was established in the Resort Experience trailers outside municipal hall. There are seats in the centre for all of the transportation partners, including the municipality, VANOC and the contractor who manages traffic management and permitting. As well, they are in constant communication with the Integrated Security Unit overseeing security at the Games.
"We review issues on a daily basis and make adjustments," explained Jan Jansen, the 2010 Games Director of Operations for the Resort Municipality of Whistler.
While extensive transportation planning was done in the years leading up to the Games it was important to be flexible and to be able to make adjustments to the reality on the ground. Nobody really knew how much traffic to expect, how many locals would embrace public transportation or how long it would take to get from point A to point B with several events running at the same time within the resort.
Despite a few hiccoughs at the start everything has been moving smoothly, says Jansen.
"Everything has been working well operationally," he said. "The Sea to Sky checkpoint is working well and a significant number of vehicles (without passes) have been rejected, so traffic has been allowed to flow freely... Off-hour deliveries are working effectively and delivering product to merchants and clearing load space in the daytime. And the suppression of background traffic (through public transportation) in a significant way that allows vehicles to move freely on the roadways. It's working well from everyone's perspective."
VANOC has also adjusted its transportation services from Games venues to bring more people into Whistler, while reducing the delays for buses.
They also met with the taxi company as the Games were getting underway and agreed to give them five additional passes into three of the areas. "We haven't heard back from them since that time," said Jansen.
"I think things have settled in nicely and (we're) seeing the results of what we hoped to see - we can see the co-operation from the business sector and certainly the community has picked up on the transit service. Things are operating well."
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