Communities continue to work on regional transit solution 

The success of the Squamish Commuter pilot project, linking Whistler to Squamish using municipal transit systems, has boosted the need to create a regional transit authority to connect communities in the corridor.

According to Brian Barnett, the general manager of engineering and public works for the RMOW, both Squamish and Whistler have agreed in principle to the creation of a transit authority, and talks are continuing to involve the communities of Mount Currie, Pemberton and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District.

Transit services have already had to increase the number of Squamish commuter buses on weekends, and are still falling behind demand. On the very first day the commuter service recorded 134 customers, with standing room only on some buses. Just two weeks later the number of daily passengers had twice exceeded 300.

In addition to adding buses, they have begun to hand out Greyhound vouchers to people the commuter bus hasn’t had room to carry.

Now both Squamish and Whistler are receiving complaints that there aren’t enough buses in the commuter program.

At the same time, Pemberton and Mount Currie residents have also pointed out that their commuter service to Whistler is also crowded and more buses need to be added on that route.

According to Barnett, a regional transit authority, if approved by the provincial government, will allow that expansion.

"A regional transit authority would establish a fuel tax in the Sea to Sky corridor to help fund and allow the expansion of the Mount Currie to Whistler transit service, as well as the Squamish to Whistler transit service," he said. Local governments and B.C. Transit would likely also have to support the commuter services, although the financial details of a regional transit authority are still being worked out.

Even with the approval of all local governments, the provincial government will have to pass legislation creating and empowering a regional tranist authority. "It’s a lot of work for the municipalities and the provincial government, it’s not something we will be able do overnight," said Barnett.

"We think (the success of the Squamish commuter bus) is going to fast-track support from communities in the corridor to back a transit authority, and confirms the need for such a system."

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