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Whistler kicks in commuter funding

By Alison Taylor The Squamish-Whistler commuter bus is scheduled to return for daily runs beginning Nov. 23.

By Alison Taylor

The Squamish-Whistler commuter bus is scheduled to return for daily runs beginning Nov. 23.

As in the past two years, Whistler council has committed to funding 50 per cent of the bus service, with the remainder to be funded by the District of Squamish. The service costs roughly $150,000 for the five months of operations.

B.C. Transit is still unable to contribute money because its funding has been frozen for the past several years. However, it does provide the buses.

On Monday night, Mayor Ken Melamed did not mince his words on the province’s decision to freeze funding.

“Freezing transit funding is one of the worst betrayals of British Columbians,” he said, placing the blame with the Treasury Board, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation.

Not only does it go against efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Melamed said, it also hampers the corridor’s ability to create a regional transit system that could stretch from Lions Bay to Pemberton.

With four round trips a day, the commuter service has become a popular choice for Squamish residents commuting to Whistler for work.

Despite its popularity, there is no guarantee from year to year that there will be money to fund the service.

According to surveys, the majority of people riding the bus are hotel workers and their major complaint about the system was overcrowding.

Emma DalSanto, municipal transportation demand management coordinator, said they are investigating bringing in buses with more seats this year.

She presented a plaque to council Monday for exceptional performance and outstanding achievement from the Canadian Urban Transit Association in recognition of the commuter service.

This year the service will run from Nov. 23 to April 22.


Cross-country prices going up

Cross-country skiers will need to pay a little more this year to enjoy the groomed trails around Lost Lake.

Day tickets will jump from $10 to $15, while the adult season’s pass will increase from $170 to $210.

Even though the change to the daily rate represents a 50 per cent increase, it is “somewhat below what the other resorts are offering this year,” explained Roger Weetman, the municipality’s manager of program services.

Prices at Lost Lake have not changed since 1998. In the meantime operating costs have gone up due in part to increased wages, fuel costs, supplies and equipment.

Council expressed some concern that there was no public oversight body reviewing the price increase. The Advisory Parks and Recreation Committee has been disbanded. Without a public committee’s insight, however, they felt comfortable supporting the increase to user fees.

“I know there’s a lot of alternatives out there,” said Councillor Gord McKeever, adding that there are hundreds of kilometres of logging trails and other trails around Whistler in addition to the 30 kilometres of groomed trails at Lost Lake.

User fees for snowshoeing have also been increased, from $2 per day to $6 per day for an adult pass.

The cross country Spirit Pass for Whistler employees will be $147, which is 70 per cent of the cost of a regular season’s pass.

There will also be a continuation of the free community night every Monday through the winter season for both visitors and residents.

“I do think we’re providing an affordable option,” said Mayor Ken Melamed.

The night skiing times have also been extended an extra hour, beginning at 3 p.m. rather than 4 p.m.


Contract approved for annual concert

Whistler is getting at least one big live outdoor music event every summer up to and including 2010.

A deal has been struck between Events Whistler — which is made up of the municipality, Tourism Whistler and Whistler-Blackcomb — and a Vancouver-based company Playground Performances.

John Rae, the municipality’s manager of strategic alliances and marketing, explained to council that Playground approached Events Whistler for the deal.

Playground have experience here, producing the hugely successful Faith Hill outdoor concert two years ago as well as the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra on the mountains.

While Playground is looking for exclusivity to produce any event in the resort over 15,000 people, Rae said that’s not on the table.

“We do not want to give them that exclusivity,” he said. “It’s actually a deal-breaker.”

Another condition of the contract is that Playground must name the talent and the date by Feb. 1 of the years the concert being produced to allow Whistler to properly market the event.

While council had some concerns about signing a four-year contract without knowing further details of potential acts, they approved the deal.

Rae said the overarching deal is a “parent contract” and there will be more specific contracts for each performance.