SLRD committed to regional transit strategy 

Whistler, Squamish disagree on approach

By Cindy Filipenko

The board of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District has reaffirmed the need to explore regional transit opportunities.

The issue was prompted by a discussion about Union of B.C. Municipalities Public Transit Agreement Funding at the board’s Nov. 27 meeting.

While the UBCM funding amounts to $30,000, the New Deal Gas Tax Agreement with the federal government could be leveraged for the purpose of enhancing and expanding regional transit. The money, ear-marked for capital costs for regionally specific projects, could amount to more than $1-million in the first two years of the program.

Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed expressed concern about jumping into transit expansion and suggested reinvigorating the SLRD’s regional transit committee.

“The funding can only be used for capital costs; how do we provide the money for operating expenses?” he asked. “This seems like a great gift, but the devil’s in the details in this one.”

Director Raj Khalon of Squamish voiced his opinion that the need for expanded transit should be filled sooner rather than later.

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland favoured a more measured approach.

“BC Transit agreed to undertake a long-term look at the region. Buying two or three busses isn’t going to solve any problems. I appreciate Director Khalon wanting to get going, but I think we need all the information before we proceed.”

Ideally, a regional transit would serve the SLRD from Squamish to Lillooet. The cost of establishing and maintaining that service is unknown at this time.

Presented with the option of establishing a working group or committing to a timeline to deliver a budget, SLRD administrator Paul Edgington chose the latter. Edington said he would finish his report on a regional transit system by the end of the first quarter in 2007.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously turned down a request from Whistler Snow Masters to financially assist the company in securing free bus passes as an incentive for the company’s 20-plus employees.

While she agreed with the board’s decision, Area C Director Susie Gimse held up the letter as further proof of the need for enhanced transit in the area.

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