By Murray Gamble
Published: March. 10, 2012
Many communities in Southwestern BC are linked to each other by pubic transit. The services of BC Ferries, BC Transit and TransLink allow you to travel between Sechelt, Sooke, Nanaimo, Vesuvius, Mission, Abbotsford, Boundary Bay, White Rock, Tsawwassen and Lions Bay.
Squamish is 30 km away from that network.
At one time, most people came and went from Squamish by public transit. At first there were the steamships. Then there was the train. About 50 years ago a road was opened up to West Vancouver and things began to change.
As the road widened, the options narrowed. First the steamships stopped sailing, and then the train stopped carrying passengers.
In recent years Greyhound discontinued the early morning trip to Vancouver and eliminated northbound stops at Horseshoe Bay.
If you want to travel from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish, you must first take public transit to Park Royal Mall, cross two highways, and wait for the Greyhound. If you don’t drive a car, your options are limited.
Public Transit on the Sea to Sky Highway will probably happen slowly, but Squamish has been offered an opportunity to connect to the Public Transit network to our south. TransLink, the Transportation Authority in Metro Vancouver is conducting a Service Review of services offered on the North Shore.
Currently they offer frequent trips each day between Lions Bay, Caulfield Village and Horseshoe Bay, where transfers can be made to other buses. They also offer Commuter Transit from Lions Bay to Downtown Vancouver from Monday to Friday.
It has been proposed that the Commuter service be extended to Squamish and include the communities of Britannia Beach and Furry Creek.
In February, TransLink conducted public workshops in West Vancouver and North Vancouver. Support for the proposed extension to Squamish was overwhelming in both communities.
There were people from Lions Bay and Squamish at both of these meetings who met with a great deal of support from residents of the North Shore.
This phase of the review process ends on March 9. Information from the Public meetings and other community input will be studied and included in a report which will be used to guide the next phase. Everyone who wants to comment on this proposal should contact TransLink and the District of Squamish.
The commuter service to Metro Vancouver has the potential to remove many of the early morning and early evening cars from the Sea to Sky Highway.
In addition to reducing congestion, fuel consumption and pollution on the Highway, it is seen as a means to provide additional options to others who have to travel to Metro Vancouver.
Many of the regular commuters may find that being able to read or rest while on the bus allows them to use travel time for many things that can’t be done when driving.
For others, the route passes through the bus stops at Park Royal Mall and it will be easier to connect with buses to and from Lions Gate Hospital. This is currently a very awkward process, with two highway crossings, since the Greyhound does not stop where easy transfers can be made.
Extension of the weekday service is not seen as joining TransLink. It would be a service provided in co-operation with another region. The West Coast Express service from Mission was given as a similar example.
At the moment there is very limited private bus service linking Squamish to Metro Vancouver. The rails and steamships are gone. Most people see very little option but to drive. Commuter Transit could be one more option for the 1500 commuters living between Squamish and Lions Bay.
It could also be a vital link with medical services, court appearances, government services and social needs. It could allow Squamish students to attend Capilano University, UBC or SFU without having to drive there.
If enough public support is shown, initial talks will have to be between TransLink and the District of Squamish. Since Britannia Beach and Furry Creek are within the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, the SLRD will also need to be involved.
With BC Transit being the Provincial organization providing the existing Transit in the SLRD, they too will be involved.
For now, open discussion and a show of support from the public will be needed to provide the incentive for the Municipality, Regional District, Provincial Government and TransLink to begin talks.
Most of these groups will be represented at the AGM and Conference of the Lower Mainland Local Government Association (LMLGA) in Whistler this May.
Perhaps transportation to the event can be provided by TransLink, providing an opportunity for participants to discuss the proposal while someone else does the driving.