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Councillors want B.C. Transit to reveal costs

Council's frustration with B.C. Transit over its tight-lipped answers to the cost of the new transit facility is growing.


Council's frustration with B.C. Transit over its tight-lipped answers to the cost of the new transit facility is growing.

At Tuesday's meeting, council was asked to approve a six-month operating contract with the company - a standard procedure as it works toward a seven-year agreement.

But three of the seven members of council voted against the agreement, sending a message to B.C. Transit that it needs to make the cost of the multi-million-dollar transit facility public - because Whistler taxpayers are funding half the project.

The new transit hub is the biggest facility of its kind in the world, able to hold 150 buses including the 20 new extra-long hydrogen fuel cell buses that will be in Whistler as part of a provincially and federally funded pilot project.

"Have they told anybody what that thing costs yet?" asked Councillor Eckhard Zeidler, of the new facility, which he calls "Garage-mahaul."

Councillor Grant Lamont shared his concerns about the lack of transparency, as did Councillor Ralph Forsyth.

Forsyth expressed other concerns too about transit, namely the service performance standards that have yet to be implemented despite repeated requests, and also the lack of a bus stop at the new Rainbow subdivision.

Despite those concerns council passed the agreement by a narrow one-vote margin.

"I hesitate to hold up an operating agreement for that fact," Mayor Ken Melamed said of concerns over the capital costs, though he appreciated his colleagues' unease about the lack of transparency.

B.C. Transit spokesperson Joanna Morton said this week that the capital costs will be made public in January.

The six-month annual operating agreement approved by council covers the 2010 Olympic period in Whistler.

The resort municipality will not be paying for any increased transit costs at that time, instead paying its usual February share of the operating costs of $320,000.

The cost and the revenue from the increased hours of service from Feb. 1 to 28 as part of the Olympic efforts will be the responsibility of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.

B.C. Transit will reduce the cost of the souvenir monthly pass as well as change cash fare structures during the month of February. The free village shuttle will also be suspended during the Games and will become a full pay route.