Squamish and Whistler are both now formally on side with the idea of a commuter service between the two communities.
Squamish council passed a motion Tuesday (July 6) that gave the idea support in principle. Lawmakers in Whistler passed a similar motion June 21.
The two communities are working toward creating a service that will start in September. The commuter service will shuttle Squamish residents to Whistler for work.
The idea was first discussed in 1999. A lack of funding prevented the concept from becoming a reality.
The funding challenges became less significant when eight Squamish residents lost their lives in an accident just south of Depot Road on Hwy. 99. Six of the people killed in the crash were returning from a night shift in Whistler.
After the accident, the hotel association in Whistler, the two communities and the Ministry of Transportation all indicated that they would help fund a commuter service. Fuel taxes were also identified as another potential source of funding. Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland is hoping that the federal government will share gas tax revenues with the local governments so no additional tax has to be levied in the Sea to Sky Corridor.
The annual cost of such a commuter service is expected to run somewhere between $330,000 and $470,000.
Staff with the Resort Municipality of Whistler and B.C. Transit looked at a number of service options. The options include using the existing Greyhound service. Additional runs would supplement the commuter service.
The projected cost to the users of the service is $3 or $4 each way. The current fare charged by Greyhound is $5.60 for those who purchase 10 tickets at a time.
Squamish council's support came with a catch attached. Squamish does not support the idea of creating a pilot project through the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD).
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) recommends starting the service by setting it up through the SLRD but the District's Chief Administrative Officer, Kim Anema, a transit authority can be set up more effectively by Squamish and Whistler through a provision in the new Community Charter.
"The District of Squamish wishes to establish a service that is responsive to the demand of the community," Anema wrote in his report to council. "We have recognized that the proposed system must be flexible, it must include a frequency that addresses the various shifts and the service must be provided at a reasonable cost."
Sutherland said that he prefers to see the system mainly rely on Greyhound.
"The challenge with B.C. Transit is the limited size of the buses," Sutherland said. "Their buses hold 44 passengers and if there are 44 passengers plus one then someone gets left behind. Greyhound will add a bus or move people by taxi at the regular bus fare."
Greyhound buses operate between 5:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., which leaves graveyard shift workers without a bus option.