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Squamish eyes summer bus service to attractions

Council directs staff to search for funding possibilities as province cuts back
A proposed Squamish summer bus expansion pilot project is on hold due to lack of provincial funding for transit. Instead of expanding, there may be cuts to transit in future years.

What a difference a few hours can make.

Tuesday afternoon it looked like Squamish would have a pilot project bus service expansion this summer. The plan, discussed by BC Transit and council at the community development standing committee Tuesday afternoon, was for bus service to be available throughout the summer to three of Squamish’s biggest attractions: the Sea to Sky Gondola, the Stawamus Chief and Shannon Falls. 

By the council meeting Tuesday night, the plan had already been wiped off the agenda. 

Rod MacLeod, district director of engineering, explained to council at the evening meeting that staff had discovered not only was the province not going to contribute any funds for the pilot project or any other expansion, but the lack of funds available for Squamish transit in the provincial budget could lead to cuts in district transit service over the next three years. 

“BC Transit funds about 60 per cent of Squamish’s transit system, so in the provincial budget there was no money allowed for Squamish for expanding,” MacLeod told The Squamish Chief.

“There are always three-year agreements with transit and so on top of that, in years two and three, there is no funding to cover inflation. Typically, inflation is two or three per cent for fuel and wages and stuff like that, so that would mean in theory we would have to cut our system by two or three or four per cent, whatever the cost of inflation is.”

MacLeod said the district had been warned things might be tight for Squamish transit in the provincial budget, but he said the reality was a shock. 

“[We] did not expect this level of cut,” he said.

District staff was directed by council to look at other options for the pilot project and report back to council at a future meeting, but MacLeod said the district’s options are limited.

“The funding model is really strictly set up by the province. We can’t just offer to pay more, so we will have to explore other options,” he said.

The news left most council members disappointed and some incredulous.

“It is pretty disappointing to hear that we are actually going to lose transit after we have done so well – with one of the largest increases in B.C. with transit user ridership at 23 per cent – that is pretty horrific,” said Councillor Susan Chapelle. 

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