Province to review its transit funding 

If B.C. Transit pursues changes in its funding formula, Whistler could be paying several hundred thousand dollars more in its transit costs.

With this in mind the municipality opposed B.C. Transit’s plan to make changes to the B.C. Transit Act that could affect the current funding formula.

"We can’t underestimate the seriousness of this," said Councillor Kristi Wells at the last council meeting.

Currently B.C. Transit, a crown corporation, contributes just over 46 per cent of the total costs of the Whistler and Valley Express funding. This works out to be about $2 million each year. The municipality kicks in the rest.

The Transit Act amendment would see that funding formula change so B.C. Transit has to give up to 46 per cent and the municipality provide no less than 53 per cent.

In a November letter to the municipality Gregory Slocombe, chair of the B.C. Transit Board of Directors wrote about three different strategies in his funding and service review. Those three strategies are: 1) to find efficiencies, 2) eliminate low priority service and 3) provide flexibility in the funding formula.

"If the required cost savings are not achieved in Strategies 1 and 2, then a flexible funding formula is required under Strategy 3 for local governments to fund a higher percentage of costs in order to avoid further service reductions," he wrote.

Councillor Ken Melamed said this was just one more example of provincial downloading that Whistler is ill equipped to deal with.

"Systems such as Whistler which are successful and which by design need to expand... this is just a very serious blow and a serious threat to the success of transit here," he said.

He proposed opposing the amendment with a united front, specifically through the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

"There have to be other supporters throughout the province," he said.

In other news, B.C. Transit awarded Pacific Western Transportation the contract to operate the WAVE system for another five years. The same company has held the transit management contract in Whistler since 1993.

In the current three-way partnership B.C. Transit provides planning, marketing, administrative and financial services. Local governments are involved in the decision making by setting fares and determining transit levels. And the management company oversees the operational aspect of the transit system.

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