Squamish parks bus route renewed for summer 2019 

Squamish council also discusses possible expansion to bus services in general

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK
  • FILE PHOTO/SHUTTERSTOCK

Squamish residents can once again to take the bus to some of their favourite parks this upcoming summer.

Route 5 - South Squamish Parks is expected to be back in service this upcoming June.

Council unanimously voted to renew this pilot bus route, which was first tested last year. They also instructed staff to try adding the Squamish Adventure Centre to its circuit.

There was also some talk of putting Brennan Park on the route. Staff said they’d give it a shot, but added Brennan would likely be too challenging for this year.

Council also directed staff to hash out a partnership with the Sea to Sky Gondola to help pay the bills for the service.

The gondola paid $13,298 last year to give its employees bus passes for Route 5.

Last year, that bus ran from June 16 to Sept. 3, during which 5,754 boardings were recorded, reads a staff report. The route stopped in downtown Squamish, Shannon Falls Park, the Sea to Sky Gondola and the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park parking lot.

The average ridership per trip was 3.9, according to the document. Ridership grew over the months, starting at 3.1 rides per trip in June and ending at 4.2 riders per trip in August.

Trips were scheduled approximately every half hour between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and 6:15 pm and 8 p.m.

Coun. Doug Race and Coun. Jenna Stoner noted there were gaps during the morning and evening rush hours.

BC Transit planner Levi Megenbir replied the service didn’t run before 9 a.m. or from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. because that would’ve required the purchase of a brand new bus.

However, Kirby Brown, general manager of the Sea to Sky Gondola, said this summer, his organization could provide a shuttle to help out in the afternoon.

“We have a shuttle already... that we can work into that schedule, in other words, we can do a pickup downtown and run it that two-to-four period,” said Brown. “It’s a potential option instead of purchasing another vehicle until the ridership gets to a point where that would make sense.”

“If we need to contribute more, we’re happy to do that,” he added later.

Last year, costs for the service were split between the District and BC Transit, with the municipality winding up paying about $28,100. The town is responsible for setting fares and hours and maintaining bus stops, infrastructure, and roads.

However, the net cost for the District wound up being $9,347 after factoring $5,455 in farebox revenue, as well as a $13,298 cash infusion from the Sea to Sky Gondola, which bought bus passes for its employees.

Assuming the routes make the same amount of money and the gondola contributes the same amount this year, the total cost to the District is estimated at $14,680.

Council also discussed the possibility of adding more to the town’s general bus service.

One idea was earlier weekday service on Route 2 Highlands to meet 7 a.m. downtown shift times and the Squamish Connector.

Other possibilities included service to the 55 Activity Centre; improved weekend service to Quest; later weekday service on the new Route 9 at Quest; expanded service on Route 4 Garibaldi and more connections during school bell times.

Coun. Chris Pettingill advocated for a stop at Totem Hall.

“That’s something I want us to not lose sight of,” he said.

Councillors wondered if pulling into Murrin Park was a possibility, though BC Transit officials said the left turn exit from the park was too dangerous.

Finally, there was also discussion about adding Britannia Beach to the mix, given that a major development is slated for the community.

Officials will be mulling the ideas. Firm decisions have yet to be made on these proposals.

This article originally appeared here.

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