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Petition puts transit on Pemberton’s radar

Village in discussions with B.C. Transit about enhancing bus service

Increasing public transit is officially on the Village of Pemberton's radar after receiving a petition with over 2,000 signatures gathered in Pemberton alone.

The petition, spearheaded by Pemberton residents Craig McCurry and Cara Jenner, implored valley residents to sign their names to a document that called on local authorities to bring a bus service similar to what it saw during the Olympics.

Speaking before council on Tuesday night, McCurry said they gathered approximately 2,153 signatures after posting the petition in locations such as gas stations and the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, though that number may include duplicates.

"I just found that being on the bus, it was jammed every single day," McCurry said. "Even at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., there must have been at least 15 to 20 people on it.

"We didn't bother going to Whistler, I'm sure if we did there would be triple the amount of signatures."

Co-organizer Jenner, formerly a radio host with Spud Valley Radio, told council that better bus service could enhance Pemberton as a community.

Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said the two of them were "preaching to the converted" in advocating for increased transit service.

"We all support enhancing the transit system," he said. "The way the funding works is, it's a partnership between B.C. Transit who pays 47 per cent of it, and the local governments who pay for the remainder. Our share comes down a little bit with the revenues at the farebox.

"A bus costs a couple hundred thousand. It's also the infrastructure, we need to have a partner in the way of the province to support this."

Sturdy went on to say that the village has been in discussions with B.C. Transit CEO Manuel Achadinha and Steve New, the Crown corporation's vice-president of municipal systems programs, about enhancing transit in the Pemberton Valley. He said both of them were in the Sea to Sky region during the Olympics and that both were impressed by the volume of people using the bus system.

"Those guys stood at the various bus loops in all the different communities and helped," Sturdy said. "They complimented Pemberton on how we purchased more bus passes than anyone else in the corridor. For such a small community it's very impressive."

Pemberton is now taking part in a transit service review through B.C. Transit that it hopes to complete by June. Part of that review involves a public comment period and Sturdy encouraged McCurry and Jenner to submit their petition as part of the consultation process.

"Partake in the service review and have as many people as you can participate in it and support extension of the service," Sturdy said.

Councillor Susie Gimse noticed that many of the signatures on the petition came from Mount Currie, suggesting there's a major demand for increased transit service to the First Nation community located east of Pemberton.

"Pemberton provides a service that connects communities," she said.

Other items at the meeting saw Pemberton council officially approve the hiring of Daniel Sailland as the new Chief Administrative Officer. He takes over from Jerry Berry, who has served as interim administrator since Dec. 15. He took over from Lori Pilon, who left the job in December to pursue a Master's in Public Administration via distance education through the University of Victoria.