In Greek mythology, King Sisyphus was punished by the gods for a long list of indiscretions.
His unenviable task was to push a boulder up to the top of a hill for eternity, only to have it roll back down.
Would it be a stretch to say that classic example of futility resembles the protracted quest by Sea to Sky Corridor community leaders to convince the provincial government to establish a regional transit system linking the corridor with the Lower Mainland?
That venture has been high on the bucket list of the powers that be in the Sea to Sky for well over a decade. Regularly scheduled buses plying the Sea to Sky Highway would cut GHG emissions and make life easier for commuters.
We’ve had a plethora of studies, reports, discussions, and promises, but to the discouragement of many observers, those initiatives have withered on the vine.
As much as single occupancy vehicles rule the road, how many of those travellers would embrace the convenience of daily scheduled buses to the Lower Mainland with connecting transit from the terminus via the SkyTrain? At one time, Greyhound helped ease the commuter burden, and these days the Squamish Connector assists in that regard. Outfits like Poparide are also helping to shift commuters to multi-occupancy vehicle mode.
The city-to-city ridesharing platform matches drivers with passengers going in the same direction. Drivers post available vehicle seats and collect payment to reduce costs and environmental footprints. But that option is a stop-gap solution at best.
The DOS Annual Report for 2020 pledged “Continued advocacy to gain provincial support for a regional transit funding model that would not rely heavily on property taxes.”
Several years ago, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) determined the funding proposal submitted by Squamish and allied stakeholders was flawed, and it was sent back to the drawing board. During a meeting with West Vancouver-Sea to Sky MLA Jordan Sturdy in February of 2019, former Squamish mayor Karen Elliott said, “Somehow, our request for regional transit doesn’t seem urgent to the ministry.”
Some observers calculate that the regional ridership volume will need to be higher to make the proposal worthwhile. As a result, the project will become cost prohibitive. But the time is ripe to put this issue on the front burner again, with new municipal councils sworn in across the corridor. Both Mayor Armand Hurford and second-term councillor John French were adamant about establishing regional transit during the recent election campaign.
This past September, representatives from local governments met with MOTI elected officials at the UBCM conference in Whistler to re-engage in the regional transit discussion. According to Jen Ford, SLRD chair, “While it’s too early to go into detail on the options that may be considered, I can assure people that we are prepared to do the hard work to find a solution that will bring regional transit to the corridor.”
She said the provincial government is willing to review various options previously presented by representatives from the Sea to Sky, including consideration of the motor fuel tax option as a regional transit financing source.
She noted that extensive research revealed regional transit is a much-needed service and is essential in mitigating climate change and addressing socioeconomic challenges facing all the communities in the corridor.
With “continued regional growth that sees millions of annual car trips on the Sea to Sky Highway, and growing demand for regional transit service, the time to act is now,” she added.
Everything considered, will the decade-long Sisyphean regional transit saga soon come to a positive conclusion for all parties concerned? As the saying goes, only time will tell.
Helmut Manzl is a long-time Squamish resident and political commentator.