Whistler looks to tackle traffic troubles

Jan 19 2017, 10:31 pm

Although Whistler is a go-to getaway for many in Metro Vancouver (and beyond), issues such as parking and slow-moving highway traffic can plague the popular mountain town – especially on big snow days or holidays – and often result in drivers feeling literally and figuratively stuck.

Now, the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is attempting to counter the issue by moving ahead on a number of initiatives to help improve transportation within Whistler and across the Sea to Sky Corridor.

“Helping people travel to and within Whistler and ensuring they get to where they want to go in a timely matter are high-priorities for our community,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden in a statement.

And on Tuesday, January 17, a Transportation Community Forum was held at the Whistler Conference Centre, attended by approximately 200 people.

They were there to discuss –and learn more about – extensive research over the past year and proposed future work plans to address Whistler’s transportation challenges.

During the evening, attendees participated in table discussions and had conversations with members of Council, TAG, transportation experts and RMOW staff about the proposed actions.

TAG returns

In addition, The Transportation Advisory Group (TAG) has been re-activated in response to transportation and parking pressure in and around Whistler, the RMOW says on its website. The group was originally formed in 1996 and active until 2012.

Comprised of stakeholders representing the RMOW, Whistler Blackcomb, Tourism Whistler, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, BC Transit, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as four citizens-at-large, TAG is in the process of “finalizing its short-term action plan based on months of research on the use of Whistler’s highways, roads, parking and transit. Medium and long-term actions will be released in late 2017,” the RMOW says on its website.

Key findings

After months-long research, TAG presented a number of key findings. They include:

  • Traffic levels in Whistler were significantly higher in 2016 compared to historic levels.
  • While trips coming in from outside of Whistler both north and south have grown, a large portion of daily traffic measured by the Highway 99 traffic counters was generated by trips within Whistler.
  • Parking should be managed to ensure a better customer experience, with the goal of 10 to 15 per cent availability during a regular busy day.
  • Transit ridership in Whistler is high compared to other communities in British Columbia however, there is still room to grow ridership. Additional hours will be added to the system in April 2017, as well as additional buses to the fleet in 2018.
  • The 2016 free summer Saturday pilot project, which provided more free transit until 8 p.m., resulted in a 52 per cent increase in ridership, with many people citing the hassle of finding parking as a major reason for choosing to take transit on those six Saturdays.

2017 short-term actions

TAG proposed a number of short-term actions at the forum, for both the winter and summer season:

Winter actions

  • Efficiencies on Highway 99 such as optimizing signal times.
  • Refinements to the transit winter schedule, including increasing the number of buses on the Staff Housing Route 7 after 8 p.m.
  • Improving peak day operations, in collaboration with resort partners, for parking, traffic flow, transit and communications.
  • Better parking management, such as car counting for parking lots and message boards on Highway 99.
  • Ensuring peak travel information is communicated to the public as effectively as possible.

Summer actions

  • Additional peak day planning.
  • Additional Whistler Transit System improvements.
  • Integration of the results from the Sea to Sky Highway Road Closures Assessment.
  • Better parking information and management. The parking study has put forward a number of findings to achieve that goal, including reducing time limits in high demand areas, consider charging for parking in Day Lots 1 through 5, reconsidering monthly parking pass pricing and helping encouraging the public to use private lots and other modes of transportation.
  • Enhanced peak travel information communication with the public.

A survey regarding these plans is now available online, and is open until February 7.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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