TransLink officials visiting White Rock this week to discuss improvements to bus services got an earful from elected officials.
Tim Savoie, TransLink’s vice-president of transportation, planning and policy, made a presentation Monday evening to inform city council and staff about some proposed “near-term changes to improve the transit network within existing resources.”
Emphasizing that TransLink is working with no new funding sources, Savoie said there are eight proposed changes for White Rock bus routes, designed for increased efficiency, decreased travel time and to extend service to areas with high demand.
Savoie said officials will be reaching out to the community in the coming weeks for feedback on the proposed changes.
“Consultation is absolutely vital to a successful plan,” Savoie said. “We want to hear what people have to say.”
Coun. Lynne Sinclair, who described herself as a regular transit user, said she had concerns that expansions in other parts of Metro Vancouver – such as the Evergreen Line – would mean a loss of service for White Rock. Pointing to the C52 community bus as an example, she said frequent changes in bus schedules and routes make it confusing for riders to plan their trips.
“How can you be a regular rider when everything changes every five minutes out here?” Sinclair asked.
“The changes that seem to be in the offing here are almost designed to decrease ridership.”
Coun. David Chesney echoed Sinclair’s sentiment about bus services, noting a “dramatic cut” in community buses throughout White Rock, and the difficulties posed by the reduction to hourly buses that took effect more than a year ago.
He asked the TransLink representative how he travelled to the evening meeting; when Savoie responded that he arrived by car, Chesney said he felt, as a transit user, that is “a problem.”
“With all due respect to our mayor and the mayor of Surrey, when I look around the bus and see Mayor (Wayne) Baldwin and Mayor (Linda) Hepner on the bus, I’ll believe we’re heading in the right direction to having transit improved,” Chesney said.
(Both sit on the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation.)
Baldwin – who lightheartedly noted he had taken the bus that same day – said he felt last year’s cuts had a negative impact on ridership, as buses running hourly make it difficult for users.
“There are a lot of people in this community that really depend on buses and they have a hard time getting around,” he said. “If they miss that bus by one minute, they’re done.”
Baldwin pointed out the various sources of funding the city provides TransLink, noting $2.1 million in property taxes, $375,000 from parking revenue and $120,000 from the federal gas tax.
“That’s a lot of money going to TransLink for the crummy service we get,” Baldwin said.
Savoie said TransLink officials will conduct public consultations in the coming weeks – by means of an online survey, face-to-face discussions and a public forum – and will implement any changes as a result in early 2016.