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Pemberton Game Plan is business as usual

Residents urged to plan their trips as ‘efficiently as possible’

Pembertonians can go about their days pretty much as they always do during the 2010 Olympic Games.

That, at least, is the message that VANOC presented to 50-60 people in Spud Valley July 30 as it laid out its "Game Plan" for transportation and otherwise during next year's Olympic and Paralympic Games.

While some Whistlerites will need a permit to get around in their own community, that won't be the case in Pemberton, where vehicle traffic will be "uninterrupted," but VANOC is still advising people throughout the corridor to plan their trips as "efficiently as possible," said Maureen Douglas, director of operations communications.

"At this point you won't have anything to be concerned about," she said before going on to describe southbound travel during the Games.

"Coming over the Duffey Lake all the way down to Vancouver, there are no restrictions, but you will want to plan ahead, give yourself a little more time. It's going to take a little longer to get places. That trip to the city will be a little bit longer, so just keep that in mind."

Travelling north, however, is a different story. Traffic will be managed on the Sea to Sky Highway at a checkpoint north of Squamish between Feb. 11 and Feb. 28. Permits will be needed for vehicles travelling north of Squamish past the checkpoint during peak hours, and that includes traffic going into or through Whistler.

Peak hours for the checkpoint haven't yet been specified, but they're expected to last about 12 to 14 hours each day during the Games.

The permits themselves will be distributed by mail in November and only two per household are being issued.

Should you choose not to drive there are plenty of options for commuters with an advanced transit system that will be in place for the Games.

The Pemberton-Whistler Connector will run every 10 minutes for the AM Rush between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m.; every 15 minutes during the Day Base period between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.; every 10 minutes during the PM Rush from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will run every 15 minutes during the Evening Period from 6 p.m. to midnight; every 20 minutes in Late Evening from midnight to 3 a.m.; and every 30 minutes in the Late Night period from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.

The Pemberton Local Service bus will operate at existing service levels and won't be impacted by the Games schedule.

Douglas said transit service will be augmented for the Mount Currie community as well.

School closures also came up at the Game Plan meeting. Pemberton Secondary School will be closed from Feb. 15 to 26 in lieu of Spring Break, while Signal Hill Elementary will be closed from Feb. 22 to 26.

Despite a wealth of information offered at the meeting, questions remained about certain facets of the Games. One of them concerned security, and the ability of people to protest near Whistler venues during the Olympics.

Cpl. Manon Chouinard of the Integrated Security Unit, which is overseeing security operations during the Games, said the unit is heavily involved in organizing what she called "safe assembly areas," specifically places near the venues where people will be allowed to protest.

Bud Mercer, assistant commissioner of the RCMP and head of the 2010 security unit, previously referred to those areas as "free speech zones" when describing designated areas in Vancouver.

Chouinard said people will be able to protest at venues in Whistler, just like in Vancouver, but said they don't have to reserve their activities to the designated areas.