TransLink plans to introduce double-decker buses on the 351 route starting in September – but the buses will likely not be used on the 354 route due to a White Rock council decision not to support pruning and removal of trees on Johnston Road and Pacific Avenue. (File photo)

White Rock council favours tree canopy over double-deckers

Decision not to prune will limit 354 route to single-decker buses

What price double-decker buses in White Rock?

At its July 27 meeting White Rock council was told, in a report from engineering and municipal operations manager Jim Gordon, that – specifically for the 354 route – the cost of running the over-height vehicles along city streets would be some extensive tree-pruning to remove clearance problems for operating the buses.

Council members ultimately balked at voting for the work to the trees, estimated at $5,200, which would have been covered by the parks operating budget.

“(The 354) only runs during the morning and evening commutes and is nowhere near full,” Coun. Erika Johanson said, noting she lives on the route.

“I don’t believe we need a double-decker bus on this route, especially at the expense of losing even more tree canopy.”

The only vote in favour of the proposed work came from Mayor Darryl Walker, who argued the tree pruning might be a necessary trade-off for improved bus service for the city.

“About a year ago TransLink came out here and we had a forum at the community centre … about bus changes that were going to take place in the South Surrey-White Rock area, and it was about when we, that is, the people of the community, were going to get the service they expected,” he said.

“One of the things, I think, that made them feel a bit better, although it was a ways down the road, was that double-deckers were coming. My sense, in this one, is we can do what we want, and TransLink will say, ‘that’s fine, we won’t give you a double-decker, you can get a single-decker and that’ll work’.

“There’s people in this community, I’ve got a feeling, who might be a little frustrated because maybe they’re left behind at some point on these buses.

“There’s a lot of other communities looking for double-decker buses.”

READ ALSO: Proposed TransLink changes could bring double-decker buses to South Surrey

Gordon had earlier told council TransLink’s intention is to bring double-decker buses – which carry more passengers, and produce only two-thirds of the pollution per passenger of single-deckers – to White Rock starting with the heavily-used 351 route in September and the ancillary 354 route in January.

Extensive surveying by TransLink and city arborists found that seven trees posed particular problems on the 354 route – which travels down Johnston Road to eastern portions of Pacific and Columbia Avenues and Marine Drive before heading up Stayte Road to King George Boulevard on its way to Bridgeport Station.

Six crab-apple trees on Johnston Road, and one honey locust on Pacific Avenue would require heavy pruning every two to three years, Gordon’s report said, while another honey locust on Pacific would need to be replaced with a “more suitable specimen.”

Councillors, however, put retaining the tree canopy at a higher priority than double-decker buses on the 354 route.

“One of our strategic priorities is tree canopy and protecting our trees,” said Coun. Scott Kristjanson. “I think our trees are more important than having a double-decker bus for 354, which is an under-utilized route compared to 351.”

“If this was the 351 and (we) needed to have those trees down, I don’t think there’d be any question,” Coun. Christopher Trevelyan said, while Coun. David Chesney agreed with other councillors in posing the question of what TransLink’s reaction might be if the city said it was not prepared to prune or remove the trees.

“They would not put a double-decker bus on, because they can’t put the bus on unless we prune the trees,” Gordon said.

“My bigger concern with this report is that (in) the tree survey they’re all moderate to moderate-poor in health,” Coun. Anthony Manning noted.

“I do wonder if there maybe isn’t a problem with a lot of the trees in White Rock, because we are hearing a lot lately about tree condition. At some point, perhaps, the Environmental Committee can come back with an assessment on what might be leading to the poor tree health.

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