Last-minute transit cancellations cause problems for Pemberton Valley commuters 

Route saw three unexpected cancellations in January

PHOTO BY JOEL BARDE
  • photo by Joel Barde

The Village of Pemberton (VOP) and Lil'wat Nation are raising concerns about transit service—and more specifically, outright cancellations—following a spate of them in January.

Just last week, Ernest Armann, chief administrative officer for the Lil'wat Nation, sent out a letter to band council and community members explaining that he had reached out to the VOP about the issue. Armann also shared a link so people could sign up for BC Transit notifications.

In total, there were three cancellations in January, one due to mechanical breakdown (Jan. 20), and two due to driver illness (Jan. 21 and 22).

There have been other unexpected cancellations in recent months as well.

"There has been some challenges with the service," said Armann, adding that there have been instances where people waited in "nasty weather" and the bus never arrived.

Under the BC Transit shared service model—which used to operate the local and commuter routes in the Pemberton Valley—BC Transit provides funding for 47 per cent of the cost of the transit system and provides the fleet, marketing, scheduling, planning and contracting services.

The VOP administers the service and shares the cost of it with Lil'wat Nation and the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).

As part of the service, the fare-box revenue goes to the VOP in order to reduce overall service costs.

The company contracted to deliver the service is Whistler Transit.

The VOP is aware of the last-minute cancellations, with VOP Mayor Mike Richman raising the issue when officials with BC Transit presented to VOP council during a Dec. 10 regular council meeting.

In his remarks, Richman said that people's jobs are affected by such cancellations and that they have been "very well communicated" to the pubic.

In response, Rob Ringma, senior manager of government relations for BC Transit, said that transit operators contracted with the agency are required to backfill "even if it comes at an impact to their bottom line."

"[Whistler Transit is] contractually obligated to provide that service, so I will have that conversation with them," he said.

In an interview with Pique, Richman said the VOP is looking for ways to prevent the cancellations from occurring.

"Consistency is everything," he said.

"People need to know that they can depend on their transit when they expected to be there."

In an email to Pique, Colin Hoffman, service delivery manager for Whistler Transit, said that both of the company's regular Pemberton drivers are currently off work due to medical conditions and that the company has not had any success in filling the positions.

The company has therefore been drawing on Whistler drivers to replace them, he explained.

"These drivers are employed in Whistler and we are obligated to use these drivers to provide transit service in Whistler prior to deploying them elsewhere," said Hoffman.

"We are actively working to resolve this staffing issue as soon as possible and I apologize for the inconvenience."

Speaking more generally about transit service in Mount Currie, Armann said that there are ongoing challenges for the community.

Because of a lack of transit options, it can take people a half a day to travel from one end of the community to the other, he explained.

"When the scheduling was created, it was really to help support people going to Pemberton and Whistler, and we haven't been able to come up with a solution to deal with some of our [own specific] transit needs," said Ringma.

Armann added that the problems owe to financial constraints. The First Nation needs to raise revenues, through such means as levying taxes, on its own territory, he said.

"At the end of the day it's the cost, and in my view, it's a bit of a challenge for us, as Lil'wat Nation, because we don't have the ability to generate revenues to pay for these services," he said.

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