Buses not up to Whistler standard 

Overworked vehicles may need to be replaced sooner than expected

By Alison Taylor

Whistler’s transit service is paying the price of success.

Record-breaking ridership numbers are taking their toll on the 25 buses in the Whistler fleet and they are beginning to look a little worse for the wear. Talks are now underway with the municipality and B.C. Transit to replace the buses sooner than anticipated.

“The buses aren’t scheduled to get replaced for several years but because of the wear and tear that’s taking place we’re in discussions now with B.C. Transit about replacing them earlier,” said Brian Barnett, the municipality’s general manager of environment.

He explained that it’s the appearance of the buses that aren’t up to standard.

“It’s more of an internal standard that we have in Whistler about the Whistler product and the Whistler experience and the Whistler world class standards that govern our decisions,” said Barnett.

Whistler Transit general manager Scott Pass said buses are replaced by B.C. Transit on average every 18 years. But that figure is based on buses that operate 10 to 15 hours a day with 27 to 35 riders per hour.

Whistler’s buses, on the other hand, operate on average 22 hours a day and transport almost 40 riders per hour. Those numbers spike over peak times such as Christmas, which saw 78 riders on the buses per hour over the two week holiday period.

Pass will not be surprised if the service surpasses the 3 million ridership mark this year, which will break the record set two years ago.

“They’re just looking tired,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of miles, a lot of hours and millions of passengers and they’re starting to get worn out, both interior and exterior.”

Half of the fleet date back to 1991 and are scheduled to be replaced in 2011. The remaining buses are scheduled for replacement in 2015/16.

At the same time, Whistler is expecting to get 20 brand new hydrogen fuel cell buses in 2009 — the largest fleet of its kind anywhere in the world.

Barnett said that will be taken into account as Whistler and B.C. Transit work to development a business plan.

He is expecting to have a decision in the weeks to come.

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