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Transportation is fundamental to the quality of life in a town; how people get around goes a long way toward determining the size, shape and character of a community.

Transportation is fundamental to the quality of life in a town; how people get around goes a long way toward determining the size, shape and character of a community. And it requires some creative thinking if transportation systems are to enhance, rather than detract from the quality of life. For an example of what may happen if we don’t think creatively we only have to look at Vancouver and how that city and successive provincial governments have failed to plan for transportation in the decade since Expo 86 — the transportation expo. For the past year, Whistler’s Transportation Advisory Group has been working on a transportation master plan for the Whistler Valley. While considerable vitriol and hyperbole have been spent on relatively minor transportation issues like the Blueberry gate, few people know much about or have shown an interest in the major TAG study. The turnout for last spring’s transportation workshop — barely 20 people — is a case in point. The fact that most TAG meetings have been held behind closed doors may also have something to do with the general lack of awareness. Regardless, the Transportation Advisory Group plans to present two or three overall transportation strategies at the annual town hall meeting Dec. 13. Transportation is a multi-headed problem in Whistler because, like everything else, the system has to work for both locals and visitors. It also has to work in summer and winter, when some of the primary destinations change. Among the issues those strategies will have to deal with are the proposed highway bypass that the previous council okayed. The bypass, requested by the Ministry of Highways, would see a bypass along the west side of the valley, well above Alta Lake Road. A connector would cut into the valley somewhere around the south end of Alta Lake. The highway bypass is an off-the-shelf, engineering solution to a transportation problem. Indications are TAG has been working on some more creative solutions to Whistler’s present and future transportation issues. As evidence: o One piece of advice Whistler councillors received on their September tour of Colorado and Idaho resorts, and which TAG Chair Nancy Wilhelm-Morden seemed to find intriguing, was to not be afraid of new technology or new ideas in transportation. o Last spring’s report by TAG consultants Ecosign and Reid Crowther produced a bunch of previously unknown data, such as employee housing right at the mountains can significantly cut down on the amount of highway travel within the valley; based on the number of bed units that will eventually be available in the village area, Whistler Mountain will need another access lift out of the village; it may be time to allow some types of commercial development, such as a liquor store or bakery, outside of the village core to cut down on highway trips within the valley; and some sort of "people mover" to get skiers from the farthest day-skier parking lots to the base of the mountains will eventually be required. o Council recently gave first two readings to a bylaw that will require new developments to provide secured parking spaces for employees’ or residents’ bicycles, as well as showers and change rooms for those people. The number of bike parking spaces would depend on the type of business, size of the building, number of employees or residents and so on. Virtually every type of building or business is included, although some have to be a minimum size before they will be required to provide bike parking or showers. A second class of bike parking, for people who are not residents or employees of the building, is also required under the bylaw. The scope of the transportation issue goes well beyond traffic jams on Highway 99 at 3 p.m. during winter weekends and holidays. But with a resort that is only going to get busier, situated in a narrow valley with four lakes, established neighbourhoods and land that should be preserved, finding long-term solutions to transportation issues is going to take some imagination.