Higher service standards demanded of BC Transit 

New operating agreement adds buses to Cheakamus Crossing and Spring Creek

An uneasy Whistler council has agreed to go forward with the latest agreement with BC Transit to expand bus service into Cheakamus Crossing and Spring Creek.

But most councillors voiced concern about the agreement during Tuesday evening's public meeting, saying performance and service standards need to be inserted in the system plagued by complaints of unreliable buses.

"Two years ago, we met with (Manuel) Achadinha (BC Transit's president) and Steve New (BC Transit's vice-president) and they told us that service was a priority and that we could look forward to service standards forthcoming," said Councillor Ralph Forsyth. "We haven't received any."

Forsyth said performance measures would prevent things happening like the recent incident where a bus driver refused to allow a two-year-old child and his nanny take a small runner bike on a bus. They were left at a bus stop.

"How we execute policy should be trumped by certain standards that say bus drivers shouldn't leave a little kid at a bus stop," said Forsyth.

Mayor Ken Melamed agreed that stricter bus metrics need to be in place. But he said he wasn't prepared to vote against the agreement and potentially end service in Whistler in 30 days' time.

"There is a very strong interest at this table to see those implemented," said Melamed about the performance measures. "But I am not prepared to end service."

Councillor Chris Quinlan also expressed frustration but voted in favour of the motion because he didn't want to risk shutting down Whistler's bus system.

"I don't know how we can put forward a stronger voice to BC Transit that this issue has to be dealt with as quickly as possible," said Quinlan.

Quinlan was unhappy with the bus system, saying not only are little kids being left at the bus stop because of runner bikes, but also many people are unable to get to work on time because of unreliable buses.

"What are the consequences for the transit operator not coming forward and providing the services they were contracted to do?" asked Quinlan. "That is the tone I would like to send out. There definitely has to be consequences to not fulfilling the agreement."

In response to council's pleas, representative Johan van Shaik said BC Transit is rewriting the Master Operating Agreement and Annual Operating Agreement to include performance measures.

But as things stand, Whistler council cannot add those measures in today, he said.

Three councillors voted against the transit operating agreement: Forsyth's vote was joined by Eckhard Zeidler's and Grant Lamont's.

The new agreement includes service into the athletes' village neighbourhood, Cheakamus Crossing, as well as expanded service to Spring Creek.

The municipality has also earmarked $500,000 from pay parking revenue to go toward Whistler's transit system next year. Those funds would be matched by BC Transit.

Zeidler was also concerned over Whistler's $500,000 commitment. He said that money is based on projected revenue from pay parking at the day skier lots, which only started last week.

"If we find out that our user-pay parking revenue does not permit for that $500,000, then the argument will come forward that, well, BC Transit has come up with the money, so we have to come up with that money," said Zeidler.

"That is a cycle I have seen before, and it is something I want to resist."

The mayor assured him "in no way, shape or form" does the agreement commit Whistler to spending that money.

Lisa Landry, general manager of economic viability, also confirmed that the province cannot force Whistler to invest money into the bus service.



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