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Mayor Heintzman, there is a simpler solution than transit on the Sea-to-Sky Highway

This is an open letter to Mayor Patricia Heintzman of Squamish, in response to the article entitled “Squamish, B.C., a magnet for newcomers, StatsCan report finds” and published on February 16, 2018 by the CBC.

Dear Mayor Heintzman,

My name is Flo Devellennes and I run a community-driven carpooling app called Poparide that has been operating on the Sea-to-Sky highway since 2010 (previously called HitchWhistler).

Last Friday, I read the article published by the CBC where you explained the challenges Squamish is facing as it grows and attracts more residents from the lower mainland. One of the points you stressed is the lack of support from transit agencies and the province to help with providing options to alleviate traffic on the Sea-to-Sky.

I share your perspective. When I immigrated to Vancouver from Europe back in 2010, I was surprised by the lack of public transportation between Vancouver, Squamish and Whistler. Aside from driving, the only other option was to buy an overpriced $60 bus ticket.

After picking up several hitchhikers on the Sea-to-Sky, I decided to take matters into my own hands and build a website to help people share rides. HitchWhistler.com was born, and for $20-$30 it offered a return trip and helped drivers with their gas expenses.

Fast forward eight years and HitchWhistler is now Poparide. We’re operating across Canada with over 80,000 members that we have verified to ensure a high level of trust and safety. Our biggest routes are Vancouver – Squamish – Whistler with over 1,200 trips posted a month. The Sea-to-Sky corridor has some of the strongest demand for shared transportation that we’ve seen in Canada, and with an estimated 18,000 vehicles driving the highway every day there is plenty of opportunity for more carpooling.

The potential for shared transportation is enormous: it doesn’t require any additional infrastructure or funding, it’s environmentally friendly and it builds community. It also reduces drivers’ commuting costs and provides people with an affordable means of transportation. On our platform, a one-way trip between Squamish and Vancouver is $8.

The impact of Poparide has been tremendous on the residents of Squamish. Consider Patrick, a man in his 30’s who lives in Squamish and has been commuting to Vancouver daily since 2010. In the last two and a half years since he became a Poparide member, he’s helped 956 people travel between Squamish and Vancouver and saved over $7,500 in his transportation costs. And then there is Henry, Ashley, Melissa and dozens of other daily commuters from Squamish who have helped thousands more travel in the last year alone.

We are proud to be operating as a legal carpooling service that provides safe and affordable transportation options for British Columbians. Under the BC Transportation Act, section 1 (2), it is stated that a vehicle carpool is allowed if the origin and destination of the driver and passengers are the same, if it happens no more than once a day, and if drivers only collect enough money to cover their costs. Our platform has been built around these regulations and we strictly enforce them to operate legally.

We believe everyone should have access to affordable travel. But the reality is that there are financial, political and logistical challenges to public transit. When you consider the stagnation we’ve witnessed in the last few years on the Sea-to-Sky, with countless action plans but few actions, we’re not optimistic the situation will change anytime soon.

We have a solution that works: it’s ready now, it’s built and run by passionate people based in Vancouver, and all it needs is your support. Help us make carpooling part of the social fabric of Squamish. Help Squamish operate as a modern, future-facing and dynamic community that embraces technological advancements to solve its growth challenges.

We’d like to meet with you to discuss how we can reduce traffic congestion for Squamish commuters and visitors, and contribute to the ongoing success of the Sea-to-Sky communities by helping people get around easily, safely and efficiently.

Sincerely,

Flo Devellennes
Poparide CEO & Co-founder
flo@poparide.com