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Park and rides still being discussed

Pemberton, Squamish adamant that VANOC should pay

Park and ride facilities are being considered for Pemberton and Squamish during the 2010 Games, but when they'll go up, how much they cost and who's going to pay for them is open to question - three months before the Games start.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy told Pique in an interview that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC) has been looking into a park and ride in his community since the early development of its transportation plans. For most, transit will be the only way of traveling to Whistler during the Games.

Sturdy said the idea was first presented to Pemberton by VANOC and B.C. Transit, and situating a park and ride in the northern town makes sense because it houses a workforce of about 1,000 people a day who need to get to Whistler.

"Most of them take their own vehicles," he said. "Some will be able to walk to the bus... but anybody who lives outside the current bus catchment area will need a bus and they need a place to park and the enhanced bus service runs from the village into Whistler. It doesn't run from Birken into Whistler."

Sturdy went on to say that there are many residents who could have trouble accessing the bus network if they can't drive to the stops. People who live in areas such as Owl Ridge, Ivey Lake and up the Pemberton Meadows Road are well outside any bus catchment area.

Besides the regular workforce of 1,000, Pemberton may also play host to several thousand volunteers and if there's no park and ride facility some residents and volunteers may be forced to walk long distances in the snow to get to buses.

Sturdy feels a park and ride is necessary, but as it stands he's not entirely sure how it'll be paid for.

"The project is challenged in that VANOC and B.C. Transit have refused to contribute," he said.

"They are not willing to contribute to completing the project or developing the infrastructure needed to have a park and ride. They're suggesting it should be on the backs of the village taxpayer and the village council is not particularly pleased with that option."

Sturdy said Pemberton has gone to VANOC with a park and ride proposal that could cost $400,000 but thus far the committee has said "we have no money," according to him.

If a park and ride gets built in Pemberton, the village hopes to see it serve as a general parking area as part of a downtown enhancement project so that people don't need to drive through it all the time. There are already parking areas located near businesses such as the Pemberton Hotel and AG Foods but Sturdy hopes to see more.

"We want to redevelop the whole area from the north end to the south into an area that is welcoming," he said. "A bit of an entranceway to the community (that) encourages you to come and park your car and do your business and return to your vehicle and head on your way back home or whatever.

"It's in our downtown redevelopment plan to encourage and support a walkable community."

VANOC declined to comment, saying it is still holding discussions with regard to a park and ride, but it is hoping to give the Games workforce some certainty about how it will get around.

Squamish Mayor Greg Gardner said the community is working on its own park and ride facility with VANOC but discussions are ongoing. He said there will be a volume of traffic coming from Squamish to Whistler during the Games that won't be able to get past a checkpoint at Alice Lake Provincial Park if they're driving. People will thus need to use buses.

Asked who'll pay, Gardner said any costs for a park and ride would be borne by VANOC.