The City of White Rock is shutting down its Foster Street bus layover permanently, as of Sept. 12 – although an alternative site is yet to be found.
Wednesday’s announcement followed a protest by nearby residents and business owners who were upset over noise and fumes.
City engineering director Rob Thompson said he’s hopeful discussions with TransLink, its operator, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and the City of Surrey will produce at least an interim location. The ideal long-term solution, he said, would be to negotiate a bus loop terminus as part of future planning for Central Plaza or Semiahmoo Shopping Centre.
“But that’s going to depend on the eventual redevelopment of those properties, and that’s something that’s out of our control,” he told Peace Arch News, after he and operations manager Paul Slack met with a small group of residents of the Pacific Terrace residential and commercial complex last Wednesday.
The placard-carrying residents were protesting on the sidewalk beside the temporary bus layover, which they claim has been making them ill through diesel-fume pollution wafting across the street up into their apartments, and also sleep deprivation from the noise of buses, brakes and automatic doors which starts shortly after five in the morning and continues until midnight.
“You are breaking White Rock’s noise bylaw,” resident Jan Burno said. “I don’t even go to bed until 12:30.”
During the impromptu meeting, which began with anger and ended with handshakes, Thompson gave his commitment to residents “in front of witnesses and the media” that buses would leave Foster Street by Sept. 12, never to return there, or to their original location along North Bluff Road beside Central Plaza.
“We’ve heard you and we’ve responded to it,” Thompson said.
Although the buses were moved temporarily to Foster Street in early August for the two-month upgrade, the city doesn’t want to continue the layover next to Central Plaza, which Thompson said is dangerous to both passing traffic and pedestrians.
Oxford Street, Martin Street and Russell Avenue are also out of the running as alternative sites, he said.
But Thompson told the Pacific Terrace protesters that wherever the layoff is located, whether in White Rock or South Surrey, “there will be some kind of impact on residents somewhere.”
“Just about every street in White Rock is a residential street,” he said.
“Everybody has to bear some of the burden to have transit service in the city. We can’t say Surrey is going to solve it. We have to take a leadership role and take responsibility.”
One possibility currently on the table is locating a layover loop on city property in Centennial Park.
“We’ll get pushback from users of the park,” Thompson predicted, noting the idea is not a preferred solution for Coast Mountain since the park is a significant distance from current route ends.
Strata council chair Marcia Fetterley thanked Thompson for delivering the message of the demise of the layover in person, and said she recognized that wherever the buses are moved, there will be an impact on nearby residents.
“But we had to make a stand for our people,” she said. “We’ll get the word out to our residents really fast – they will be thrilled.”
Part of the ire of Pacific Terrace residents and business owners was their feeling they hadn’t received adequate warning of the layover, said denturist Peter Hodson, whose practice is on the ground floor of Pacific Terrace, fronting onto Foster Street. He estimated that some 30 per cent of his patients were seniors with mobility problems who were not able to make use of substitute parking spaces that were subsequently offered in Miramar Village.
“It was sort of like the HST – it was the way it was done,” he said.