White Rock municipal engineering director Rob Thompson announced Wednesday, just after Peace Arch News’ press deadline for Thursday’s print edition (below), that a contentious bus layover location on Foster Street will be closed as of Sept. 12.
Thompson said he planned to tell protesting residents Wednesday at noon that the layover – which residents of nearby Pacific Terrace have blamed for health problems associated with diesel fumes, noise pollution and sleep deprivation – will be moved by that date.
He acknowledged, however, that the city still has not confirmed an alternative location for the layover, although he said one temporary option under discussion by the city and TransLink operator Coast Mountain Bus Company is Centennial Park.
• • • • •
A temporary TransLink bus stop and layover on Foster Street adjacent to Russell Avenue has residents of the Pacific Terrace apartment complex up in arms – and they’re taking their grievance to White Rock council.
More than 100 have signed a petition against the bus layover location, which has been in effect for more than three weeks, since road-improvement work started on North Bluff Road (16 Avenue).
In that time, according to resident and petition author Paulette Collier, the area has become a waking nightmare that starts every morning at 5:30 a.m.
While the bus-stop location was expected to be in use only until the upgrade of North Bluff Road is completed at the end of September, the City of White Rock has no plans to return it to North Bluff, and it has yet to find another location.
Last month’s move had already raised the ire of owners of businesses on Foster Street, including a hair stylist, a massage therapist and a denturist, who said their livelihoods have been disrupted by the bus traffic and reduced parking options.
Now, residents say they suffer from nausea from diesel fumes wafting into suites from the buses lined up on Foster, and the disturbance of the vehicles coming and going at 10-minute intervals for 18 hours each day, plus the noise pollution of accelerating motors, idling engines, air brakes, automatic doors, backup warning beepers and even bus drivers’ loud conversations.
“It’s going into the fourth week now,” Collier said.
“They (city officials) said it’s temporary, but they also said they don’t want to put the buses back on 16 Avenue. But they won’t say what their plan is – they won’t say where they’re going to put them and they won’t confirm they’re not going to stay there on Foster Street.”
White Rock engineering director Rob Thompson said the problem of where to locate the buses on a permanent basis is one he’s trying hard to solve in discussions with TransLink’s contract operators, Coast Mountain Bus Company and the City of Surrey – hopefully before council’s first meeting of the fall on Sept. 19.
“We’ve received lots of complaints from residents,” he said. “We’re very aware of the distress this has caused them.”
At the same time, he said, relocation of the buses is a thorny issue.
The city wants them off 16 Avenue because they have long posed a safety hazard, he said.
When buses were parked along the curb on 16 Avenue, they created limited visibility for cars and pedestrians leaving Central Plaza and eastbound traffic on 16 Avenue didn’t have a full lane’s width to go past the buses without veering into the passing lane.
But TransLink also has some operational requirements for the stop, he said – principal among them, providing a layover and break area for drivers that is near washroom and food services.
“We looked at other locations within White Rock before we chose Foster Street, but none of them responded to the operational requirements,” he said, adding that the city is also “obligated to retain transit services” for the people of White Rock.
“We’re hoping we can find somewhere else on the Semiahmoo Peninsula to put them,” Thompson said.
“We’re working diligently with the bus company and Surrey to come up with a solution that hopefully creates less impact on White Rock and South Surrey.”
That solution can’t come too soon for Collier and other residents, whose petition letter to council asserts that the Foster Street bus stop is having a negative impact on physical and mental health, and wonders why a bus loop could not be established, even temporarily, in a commercial or city parking lot.
The current stop is contravening White Rock’s own noise bylaw, Collier said, as well as limiting parking options and adversely affecting not only seniors but also working commuters who need their rest and people who work from home.
“You are, quite literally, killing us,” she said.