There will be a vehicle checkpoint on the highway to Whistler, no day-long parking in the resort, and over 300 buses travelling to and from Whistler everyday carrying Olympic spectators.
Those are just some of the highlights Olympic organizers revealed this week as Phase I of the $157 million 2010 transportation plan was unveiled.
Organizers split the plan into two parts to reflect the two hosts of the Games: Vancouver and Whistler.
Whistler is in a somewhat unusual position as there is really only one road in and out of town: The Sea to Sky Highway. And since there will be no day parking in the resort organizers have decided to set up a checkpoint, likely at Alice Lake, to stop people going to Whistler just for a look around.
Within Whistler, buses will be the advised mode of transport. There will be 135 buses in operation, up from the 39 that currently service Whistler, running 24 hours a day. The enhanced bus service includes new routes, more frequent service on existing routes, and 24-hour-a-day connections to both Pemberton and Squamish.
Meetings are underway with local businesses to discuss how the transportation plan will affect them. Olympic organizers hope deliveries can be made for the most part outside event peak hours, and the municipality is looking at relaxing its noise bylaw to help accommodate this and implementing a permitting system for delivery zones.
There will be additional enforcement of parking restrictions in Whistler, with more tow trucks standing by. A larger impound lot is also being discussed.
Residents who live in and around Olympic venues will receive permits for access and parking, including people in the Creekside area, Glacier Drive and Glacier Lane and the Timing Flats via Nordic Drive.
A permitting system is also being looked at to manage the town’s short term parking so that residents can park to see a doctor and so on.
It is suggested that grocery shopping be done outside of Olympic peak hours. All shops, and Whistler’s only gas station, will be accessible.
Details are still being worked out on how the highway checkpoint will operate, but it is likely to be in place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. It will start up a few days before the Olympics begin on Feb. 12, 2010.
Enforcement officers will be checking to see if drivers have a legitimate place to go Whistler, as there will be absolutely no day parking in or near the resort. Locals may have to show their driver’s licence with a local address, while non-Olympic accredited visitors will have to show hotel confirmations.
Organizers have suggested that anyone travelling to stay with friends in Whistler drive up after 4 p.m. to avoid the checkpoint.
In general peak time on the highway, which is open to all traffic during the Games, will be between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m.
There will be two lanes northbound in the morning from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler’s southern most part, Function Junction. From there a temporary Olympic Lane, which will be constructed this summer, will carry designated traffic into town. Transit buses, Olympic accredited vehicles, delivery trucks, and other commercial vehicles will be allowed in this lane.
The other northbound lane will carry all other traffic.
The system will be reversed for load out.
A fleet of vehicles will be deployed along Highway 99 to ensure the road remains open. These include salting and snow clearing trucks, tow trucks, emergency response vehicles and police.
About 350 buses will carry Olympic spectators up and back from departure points in the Lower Mainland each day of the Games. All ticket holders for events in Whistler who are staying in Vancouver will be contacted by VANOC to advise them of how and when to purchase their bus tickets. The trip to Whistler from Vancouver will cost $25.
Buses within Whistler will run every five to 10 minutes at peak times and every 15 to 30 minutes during the late night hours. There will also be several new neighbourhood routes, including Millar’s Pond, Kadenwood, Nordic Drive, Gondola Way, Whistler Cay and Nicklaus North.
On competition days there will be extra transit service to Whistler Creekside and the Whistler Sliding Centre so residents and spectators can easily get to events.
It is expected that transit fares will stay the same, $2 per ride. For February 2010 a monthly souvenir pass will be available for less than a regular pass would cost.
Taxi service in Whistler is not expected to be increased, as the extra buses should provide a fast enough service to users. Hours of service for February are expected to rise to 55,000 from 7,500.
As well as taking the bus organizers would like to see people walk or cross-country ski the Valley Trail system. There will be enhanced clearing and track setting to encourage this.
There will be several road restrictions associated with Olympic competition events including:
• Whistler Way will be closed to public access directly adjacent to the media centre at the conference centre.
• There will be restricted access to Sunshine Place, Cornerstone Building and the conference centre parkade.
• Conference Centre parking Lot A and Whistler Golf Course clubhouse parking will be closed to the pubic.
• There will be traffic pattern changes at the Gateway Loop and Main Street intersection.
• There will be one-way traffic on Blackcomb Way from Sundial Crescent to Glacier Drive during peak travel times.
• There will be access restriction at Blackcomb Way at the Celebration Plaza and Glacier Drive and Glacier Lane.
• Parking day lots 1 through 5 will be turned into a transportation mall for all of February.
• Day lots 6, 7, 8 will be used by VANOC as part of its sliding centre operations.
• At Creekside the parkade will be closed to the public.
• London lane will be closed to public in front of Legends.
• Bus load/unload zones at Creekside will be along Highway 99 on the parkade side.
• There will be one-way traffic on Taylor Way/Lake Placid Road to Nita Lake Lodge at peak travel times. There will also be access restrictions and a vehicle check point in this area.
• Roadside parking restrictions in neighbourhoods will be enforced at all times.
Pedestrians will be able to access all of the shops along Franz’s Trail including the Creekside Market, but people will not be able to park to do their shopping.
Olympic organizers are talking with private carriers to make sure that other bus services are available for those who want to come to Whistler to ski for the day or for people in the corridor travelling to Vancouver to see events or shop. Vancouver-bound spectators can also drive to transit points in the city and park and ride. Vancouver transit is free with a valid Olympic ticket on the day of travel.
The Ministry of Transportation is also updating plans on the use of ferry terminals at Porteau Cove and Darryl Bay just in case the highway is closed due to weather events or a landslide, as happened for four days last summer.
The ferries could carry cars and buses, but they would be used to transport essential services only. Olympic spectators would simply not be able to get to Whistler. VANOC has plans in place to have enough essential workers living in and around the Whistler venues to host the events even if cut off from Vancouver.
A pubic open house on the transportation plan will be held March 16 at the Westin from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
There will also be two more updates on the plan, which is about 80 per cent complete. One will be later this summer and one will follow in the fall.