Squamish Transit to become more competitive 

May eventually acquire some of the hydrogen buses bound for Whistler

A more robust public transit system will come to Squamish in the next five years, with a new bus in the short term and the long-term possibility of acquiring hydrogen buses from Whistler after the Olympics.

The first step, said Tania Wegwitz, senior transit planner with B.C. Transit, is to implement one new bus and 3,200 service hours by the end of August.

“What this does is begin to reshape your transit system to create a stable base for future proposals that would be layered on with the business plan,” Wegwitz told council during this week’s strategy session.

Wegwitz presented council with a graph showing the relationship between service hours and ridership as far back as 1991. The graph shows ridership outgrowing service hours in recent years, with the former dropping slightly in the past two years.

In addition to the extra hours and bus, Squamish Transit will be servicing five new routes, one of which includes Quest University, and another Wal-Mart.

According to a chart Wegwitz submitted to the district, the new hours could generate an additional 53,800 rides, which would generate $60,300 in revenue. The cost of the upgrade is $252,400, with $90,000 of that owed by the district and the province covering the rest.

Wegwitx further recommended a $5 rollback for monthly student passes.

“The plan for the next five years really tries to respond to information we heard from both customers and residents,” said Peter Murray, transportation planner with B.C. Transit.

If council approved the whole five-year plan, Squamish Transit’s fleet would include an additional eight buses, representing 28,400 service hours and 477,200 riders. This would come at a cost of $2.3 million, with the province covering $992,100. The enhanced service would generate $534,000 in revenue.

Council was generally receptive to the proposal, although there was some concern regarding route choice. Councilor Corinne Lonsdale said routes might not access the town’s most populated areas.

As the five-year plan unfolds, Squamish might acquire one or more of the 20 hydrogen busses guaranteed to Whistler for the Olympics. A branding exercise is also in the works, as well as public art at terminals, which will also be improved.

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