Squamish looking at ferry service to Vancouver 

Survey to gauge public support for service from Squamish waterfront

A week after Pemberton council was presented with a second airport development proposal, Squamish council has initiated a survey to gauge the level of support for a high-speed passenger ferry service to Vancouver.

A high-speed ferry is seen as a crucial Olympic development because it would transport tourists and commuters to and from Squamish and Vancouver in about 45 minutes. It can take up to an hour and 45 minutes to drive from Squmish to downtown Vancouver.

A ferry service is Squamish council’s first goal for a 71-acre plot of waterfront land they acquired from the province last December.

Squamish’s Economic Development Officer, Lee Malleau, said the survey was designed to gather support, engage the public in the process and to find out exactly how Squamish residents want to use the service.

"We’re developing a strategy and doing our homework first before going to upper levels of government," said Malleau.

"We’re also collecting data and assessing demand from the private sector.

"We’ve certainly had general conversations with both levels of government, provincial and federal, but we have not had any specific conversations about exactly how each level of government would participate in a project like this.

"So the next step is to complete our research and discussions with the private sector and build our project."

Malleau said she hoped to see at least 1,000 people complete the survey.

"We’re looking for positive and negative responses, but basically we want to know who’s going to use this service, how often and for what reason and whether there’s enough marketplace demand to justify making both private and public investment into the infrastructure."

Malleau said the waterfront development was moving ahead quickly, which is why the council needs the public to review the progress that has been made and give as much feedback as possible.

"The minute the waterfront land is actually formally transferred to the community is when we’re going to start formally implementing the plan to develop it.

"And that’s expected to take place this fall, after we go through the summer community consultation processes and finish up paper work and install the board of directors for the Waterfront Development Corporation.

"As far as seeing shovels in the ground, some time next year we’re going to start seeing some sight and line preparation."

Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland also felt it was the right time to ask the community for feedback.

"Based on the dialogue in the Olympic bid process and what we feel is enough informal demand to merit more detailed exploration, we’re asking people to tell us if they see value in a passenger ferry service," said Sutherland.

"Right now the idea is for the service to travel between downtown Squamish and Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver."

There is little doubt about what a ferry service could do to alleviate transportation pressures along the Sea to Sky corridor.

According to the Squamish council, the number of vehicle trips in the corridor will increase from four and a half million to seven million by 2025.

"A passenger ferry service from Vancouver to Squamish will bring a huge economic benefit to Vancouver, Squamish and British Columbia, as well as provide a sustainable transportation legacy that could be showcased prior to, during and well beyond 2010," said Malleau.

The survey can be picked up at Squamish Town Hall, requested by e-mail or postal mail, and it can also be completed on line at www.squamish.ca .

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