A forum on planned transit changes for the Peninsula held Monday evening at White Rock Community Centre drew many interested residents and councillors from both White Rock and Surrey – but does seem to have assuaged fears of compromised bus service.
More than 250 people attended the forum, organized by TransLink and the City of White Rock, many of them worried that proposed changes to bus service – slated to begin in the fall of 2020, and including a new 350 route between White Rock Centre and Crescent Beach joining modified 351 and 352 routes – would negatively impact riders.
Among suspected effects were increased chances of riders being stranded due to missed connections between routes, the adding of a transfer for those travelling to and from Bridgeport, and hardships for users with mobility issues due to planned use of smaller shuttle buses on the 350 route.
But what residents heard from main speaker Sarah Ross, TransLink director of system planning – and read on information boards at the meeting – was that the new 350 route will be launched with regular sized buses, rather than the shuttles originally proposed, subject to review of ridership data after several months in operation.
They also heard that hours of service and off-peak frequency would be the same for the 350 as the existing 351, and that hours of service would be extended on the peak-time-focused 352 route between White Rock and Bridgeport, including running between 1.5 and 2 hours earlier and later than the current morning and evening schedules.
TransLink’s message also included that the 352 will provide a direct connection to Bridgeport for riders on 16 Avenue and on 128 Street, and that Thrift Avenue will continue to be served, by both the 351 and the 350 routes.
“They obviously heard us loudly and clearly and backed off on some of the proposals,” said Coun. David Chesney following the meeting, which was hosted by Mayor Darryl Walker, and also attended by White Rock councillors Anthony Manning, Erika Johanson and Christopher Trevelyan, along with Surrey councillors Linda Annis, Brenda Locke and Doug Elford.
Following Monday’s meeting, however, he said he was mostly content with the service changes as now outlined.
“I think we’re going to be OK,” Chesney said. “It doesn’t appear that there’s going to be any decrease in service.”
Chesney said, however, that he still has concerns about TransLink’s intention to use double-decker buses to connect White Rock and Bridgeport, adding he has fears they could prove unstable in high-wind conditions along the stretch of Highway 99 adjacent to Mud Bay.
“They’re primarily used inside urban areas,” he said. “They’re not really capable of travelling at higher speeds on freeways – it’s like driving along with two sheets of plywood on your vehicle.”
Chesney also said he feels there has been little thought given to creating an adequate White Rock centre bus loop in the uptown Johnson Road-North Bluff Road/152 Street-16 Avenue area.
Manning said that one suggestion he raised to TransLink staffers at the discussion tables provided during the forum was modifying the 350’s circular route in White Rock to a counter-clockwise direction to provide a better a connection between routes in the uptown area.
“It seemed as though the meeting was to introduce the changes rather than seek feedback on them,” he noted, adding that “they were pretty much a done-deal.”
But Walker said he was satisfied with what was presented at the meeting.
“I had received most of the information from TransLink some time ago,” he said. “”It was what I expected, and hadn’t changed to any large degree.”
Walker also said he was pleased that three Surrey councillors had attended, seeing their interest as boding well for future co-operation between both cities on transit and other issues of shared interest.
He said the city will continue to monitor the Peninsula bus service issue and that he had requested that TransLink provide the city with a de-briefing summary of notes taken on suggestions raised by residents at the discussion tables – including matters pertaining to bus shelters, road crossings and increasing safety for people waiting on dark nights.
“It’s not a perfect situation,” he said.
“In some cases people will have to cross from one side of a street to another. But people have to take a little responsibility, too. They still have to get themselves to the bus stops anyway – they can’t expect door to door service.”