Olympics to push public transportation 

Expect long walks, lots of buses

Although nobody is going to force locals to stay off the highway and ride the bus for two weeks, the Olympic transportation work group for the Whistler area says they will do everything in its power to encourage residents and visitors to take public transit – by hook or by crook.

"We’re not going to put up road blocks in town, but we are hoping we can encourage people to use public transit, just while the Olympics are in town," says work group member Bill Murray, who spoke at the latest Vancouver Whistler 2010 Bid fireside chat on Dec. 6. Dena Coward, another member of the work group, was also present to help answer questions.

The focus of the work group, one of three different transportation groups working on the bid project, includes transportation between Whistler and the proposed Nordic facilities in the Callaghan Valley, and public transportation within Whistler during the Games. The other two groups are looking at transportation in Vancouver, and potential upgrades and alternatives to the Sea to Sky Highway.

And like other Olympic plans that have been presented, nothing is written in stone at this point. "A lot could change before 2010," says Murray.

On peak Olympic days, the transportation groups expect upwards of 60,000 spectators and day skiers to make the round trip from Vancouver to Whistler.

Separate arrangements are being made for the more than 2000 athletes taking part in events in Whistler and the Callaghan Valley, plus coaches, race officials, security personnel, media and volunteers.

Murray estimates that it will take 600 buses, leaving staging areas around Vancouver over a three-hour period, to handle traffic on the busier days – 10 times as many tour buses as currently come to Whistler on the busiest day of the year. As in the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway, all event tickets sold will include a seat on a bus.

Whistler residents will be encouraged to stay off the highway during the times slotted for the arrival of the buses, and some kind of pass system will be used on the highway to turn back people who don’t have hotel bookings or a residence in Whistler. Day skiers will also have to use mass transportation.

"All of the parking lots will be gone," says Murray. "There’s no public parking in any of the five day lots."

Lot one will be used for awards ceremonies and other special presentations. Lots two and three will be used to park and unload tour buses, and further overflow lots might be required at Spruce Grove on the busier days. Lot four will be turned into a public transportation hub for the expanded Whistler and Valley Transit Express (WAVE) system. Parking lots at Base II and Creekside will also be closed to the public.

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