Gamble presents transit ideas to SLRD

Whistler mayor chastises Squamish resident for 'insulting' remarks

Murray Gamble's campaign to save the Squamish commuter and see a regional transit system implemented throughout the Sea to Sky corridor came before the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board at its Monday (Jan. 24) meeting in Pemberton.

Gamble, a Squamish resident who works in Whistler, has spent recent months writing letters to government officials and the media while also running a Facebook page devoted to keeping transit rolling along Highway 99. The Squamish commuter bus service currently only has funding in place through to the end of March.

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His presentation to the board on Monday called for the Pemberton and Squamish commuters to be synchronized to form a regional system that would carry passengers more efficiently between the two communities and Whistler. Gamble added that he thinks increased promotion of the service would help fill buses and make such a system sustainable.

"This isn't just a response to having my drive to work threatened," Gamble said. "This is something I've been looking at, thinking about and have written a couple of letters about over the past year and a half."

Gamble also said he would like to see a system in which people can board the bus at more locations in Squamish such as the hospital and Wal Mart. He said he thinks Black Tusk Village and Pinecrest Estates should be receiving service if a bus is already going past those developments, noting that a bus pullout was constructed last year with federal gas tax money at Black Tusk that isn't being used.

"I think you should be able to get from Mount Currie, Pemberton or Whistler to the hospital without having to take three buses or hitchhike," he said.

In Gamble's letters and again on Monday, he referenced the transit system that has been running successfully in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley for decades as a possible model to follow. Board chair Susie Gimse said there may be an opportunity to meet with elected officials and the transit authority there in June to discuss their model.

"I do appreciate your letters," she said to Gamble. "I don't think there's any one citizen in this region who has dedicated so much time to understanding and researching the transit systems in all of our communities."

In his writings, Gamble has been critical of Whistler council for its refusal to fund the commuter bus beyond the end of March. Whistler Mayor Ken Melamed told Gamble he felt that the tone of some of his letters were inappropriate.

"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I have to caution you on further insulting and disrespectful remarks to staff. I think they are misplaced and unproductive," said Melamed, adding that he felt Gamble had inferred that "we have stupid people running the system."

Gamble said after the meeting that he was hoping to ride the Squamish and Pemberton commuters to make his appearance before the board, but that he had to drive because the bus schedules weren't adequate for him to make the trip.

Last fall, the SLRD board initiated a process of gathering input from corridor communities on future regional transit options. Funding is likely to be a key issue, with the options on that front including the possibility of a region-wide gasoline tax to help pay for the service.

Regional transit, governance and boundaries and integrated regional sustainability planning are the top three items on the agenda for an Elected Officials Forum (EOF) slated to occur on Feb. 23 at the Pemberton Community Centre. Board chair Susie Gimse on Monday said the EOF should be a beneficial exercise because "it brings not just board members to table but everybody - full councils and staff - and allows for much broader discussions."

Furry Creek, Britannia get 911 service

Those living in Britannia Beach, Furry Creek and other communities in the southern part of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) should highlight Feb. 16, 2011, on their calendars.

That's the day that those living in Pemberton and SLRD Areas C and D will be able to pick up their phones and dial 911 to summon emergency help including police, fire and ambulance.

At the moment, residents of Furry Creek, Britannia Beach, D'Arcy, Birken, Pemberton and Mount Currie have to dial three separate 10-digit numbers to access police, ambulance and fire services. Once the service is activated, a 911 call will replace those numbers in areas targeted to receive the new service, SLRD officials said in a statement issued on Tuesday (Jan. 25).

Beginning Feb. 16, calls made to 911 will go to the E-Comm dispatch centre in Vancouver, where operators trained in determining the type of emergency that exists will take the information and dispatch the appropriate response teams.

Residents are being asked to ensure that they have their correct street address posted in a place where they can easily be seen from the road, day or night, to help emergency crews find their address. Those who are unsure of their correct address should contact the SLRD toll-free at 1-800-298-7753.

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