One more to grow on 

WaVE ridership continues to increase, but still room for improvement

If you rode the Whistler and Valley Express in the last 12 months, pat yourself on the back – you’re one in a million. More specifically, you’re one in 2.6 million, which is the 10th straight annual increase in the transit service’s 10-year history.

According to their annual report on ridership, WaVE carried 2.6 million passengers over the past year, compared to 2.3 million the year before. That’s an increase of 300,000 riders, or 13 per cent.

WaVE had the second highest ridership of the 71 public transit systems operated by B.C. Transit around B.C. Although the Whistler system only has 19 buses on the road during winter, and even fewer during the off-season, it carries more passengers for every hour of service than any other system around the province.

Last year WaVE’s performance rating was an average of 38.6 rides per hour for every bus in service, up from 37 the year before. The transit service also boasts one of the highest cost recovery rates in the province, recouping 43 per cent of operating costs from riders. The provincial average is 33.3 per cent.

Over the past six years, the Whistler system has been one of the top performing transit systems with high ridership increases, high cost recovery rates, and high hourly ridership rates.

According to Emma Dal Santo, the Traffic Demand Management Co-ordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, there is still room for growth on both ends in terms of public ridership and the level of service offered by WaVE. In fact, the two numbers seem to be connected as every increase in service is surpassed in size by a subsequent increase in ridership numbers.

"There’s definitely room for more growth," says Dal Santo. "Transit is successful, but there are always ways to make it better, more attractive."

The system is usually busiest during the winter months, but Dal Santo believes that the service has potential for more growth in the off-season.

"We have bike racks on all of our buses that people can use to get to all of the popular mountain biking spots. For hikers, we go to all the popular trailheads, like the Rainbow Trail, the Interpretive Forest, all those types of recreational areas," she says.

For next season, WaVE, the municipality and local businesses are looking into the creation of an employee pass, which would possibly work with ski passes or I.D. cards. The pass will be available through payroll deduction, with both employee and employer sharing the costs.

Dal Santo is currently discussing options for the pass with Intrawest, Whistler’s largest employer, and whatever system is eventually adopted will be available to other businesses as well.

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