Pemberton transit fares get cool reception 

Pemberton council was visibly frustrated Tuesday as it approved rising transit fares without a long-awaited transit service review to guide them.

After a report distributed to council that very morning and a presentation by Peter DeJong, the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District's transportation coordinator, council approved fare increases proposed by B.C. Transit that would see rider costs rise 50 per cent on some commuter routes that take passengers between Pemberton and Whistler.

Adult fares will go from a rate of $3 to $4.50 and senior/student fares from $2.50 to $4. Other fare increases would see monthly passes for adults going from $75 to $95 and from $50 to $65 for senior/student passes. A four-month winter pass for adults will cost $340 and an annual pass $910, while for seniors/students a four-month pass will cost $235 and an annual pass $620.

The fares are increasing as a way to accommodate the rising costs of running a transit system within Pemberton and along the highway to Whistler. In 2005, the report notes, the total annual cost of operating Pemberton transit was about $240,000. That same amount will only cover Pemberton's transit needs for the next six months.

The cost of running a transit system is shared 53/47 per cent between BC Transit and local governments, respectively. The local government share is funded in the amount of 40 per cent by the Village of Pemberton, 40 per cent by the Mount Currie Band and 20 per cent by the SLRD.

Costs have risen as the share of funding raised through fares has dropped. In 2005 fares contributed about 30 per cent of the total costs of the transit service, and without any fare increase they would have dropped to 21 per cent. The proportion rises to about 25 per cent with the approved fare increases.

The proposed increases are expected to cost Pemberton taxpayers about $20,000 more than in previous years. The Village currently contributes about $40,000 per year to transit, a number that will likely increase to $60,000.

The frustration was perhaps most palpable in Councillor Ted Craddock, who said he had a "real problem" with many of the options being presented in the report.

"We have been waiting on a transit review since June," he said. "According to your graph here, our costs are increasing by 100 per cent. The dollars we're going to receive are dropping, but I don't have a transit review to take a look at, and why?

"I'm real concerned that the community is going to be looking to come up with another $20,000, (or) potentially $5,000, $6,000 for the next six months (and) the overall cost to our community is going to potentially go up to $60,000."

Sailland, seated at the council table, said the numbers provided in the report were incorrect. In question period he said the actual amount is $1,000 more for Pemberton in the next six months and $2,000 more per year, assuming that ridership is what the Village expects it to be.

The report also noted that the Winter 2010/11 Schedule for buses will commence November 25 and include a 50 per cent increase in service levels above the current operating schedule. The new schedule will include an 8 a.m. commuter bus that will travel between Pemberton and Whistler, the first in the history of the Pemberton transit system in which six intercity trips are offered to and from Whistler.

Councillor Lisa Ames expressed some disappointment at the schedule, saying that the additional runs do not reflect the needs of the community.

"I don't think we've added anything significant in terms of filling gaps," she said. "We've added a bus that's 45 minutes after another one, and we've still got three-hour gaps in our scheduling and nothing in the evenings. Yes, we've increased service levels, I just don't know if we're listening to our ridership in terms of what their needs are."




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