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Province provides $32M boost to transit

Funding includes $59,000 for Squamish-Whistler commuter service

By Andrew Mitchell

As part of provincial plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Ministry of Transportation announced $32 million to expand transit services across the province. That includes an additional $10 million from the provincial budget, as well as $22 million from the federal Public Transit Capital Trust, which will be used to purchase 121 buses to expand public transit.

“Encouraging the use of local transit is a great way B.C. can reduce energy consumption and emissions,” said Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon in announcing the new funding. “We plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 per cent by 2020. That’s why we invest twice as much in transit as any other province in Canada and why we’re providing this $32 million to expand transit services in B.C.’s communities.”

That $32 million is on top of $52.5 million that will be distributed through the Union of B.C. Municipalities to support and match local investments in public transit and transit infrastructure.

Additionally, the B.C. government increased its annual funding for core transit from $44.6 million to $52 million, and recently lifted the freeze on new B.C. Transit funding.

As well, the province recently announced plans to implement a study on TransLink that will include plans to revamp the administration of Lower Mainland transit while expanding the TransLink service to the north as far as Pemberton and as far east as Mission. Overall, the province has pledged $2.4 billion over the next three years to strengthen transportation, including expanding light rail in Vancouver to include Richmond, the Vancouver Airport and a line to the Port Moody area.

For Whistler and Squamish, the new funding includes $59,000 for the commuter service that has been linking the communities during the winter months for the past three winters.

According to Brian Barnett, general manager of Environmental Services for Whistler, the commuter service costs approximately $29,000 per month, with costs split evenly between the Resort Municipality of Whistler and District of Squamish. The annual $59,000, which was guaranteed for three years in the 2007 budget, will cover the cost of the service for roughly two months, or can be used to boost the service with new buses.

Joan McIntyre, the MLA for Sea to Sky, welcomed the new funding.

“This new funding addresses a real need in the corridor,” she said. “Transportation is a critical issue in these two communities. We have listened and I am delighted that the province has now responded with extra funding.”