Complaints and concerns about changes to the city’s bus routes have been piling up at City Hall, according to City of Campbell River staff.
Ron Neufeld, the city’s deputy city manager and manager of general operations, said that new bus schedules rolled out by BC Transit in early September have prompted several phone calls and correspondence to both city staff and city council.
“With the change in the transit system, obviously there has been some concern from different members of our community,” Neufeld said during the Oct. 10 council meeting. “And what the mayor and I discussed earlier today is ensuring that we are doing a better job at tracking the concerns that we’re hearing so that first of all, council is aware of what the issues are, and secondly, where the follow up or response is that either transit staff or council is having with those individuals.”
Coun. Larry Samson said he took issue with the fact that the city and council are having to deal with any fallout in the first place, suggesting that the city and council should have been more aware what was coming.
“That we were caught unaware and where we seem surprised about the outcry and I guess that was some of my concerns, that as a city, I guess, we should have been more aware, or more proactive, or when we do start to roll out the program is, ‘here it is, and here are the good things about it,'” Samson said.
The new system was altered by BC Transit to provide greater frequency of service along the city’s main corridors – Dogwood, Alder and Highway 19A.
“More bus time has been put on those high priority corridors. As a result, some locations, the bus no longer serves,” Neufeld said. “Some of the buses that ran through residential neighbourhoods, for example, that had low ridership, those bus hours were put toward some of the high density corridors that would get higher ridership.”
But Coun. Charlie Cornfield said Transit missed the mark if it was only purely looking at numbers.
“I have big concerns when we start to talk about sheer numbers,” Cornfield said. “We can talk about corridors and increasing the time and moving people but it’s about who you move. There’s the young people who are obligated because under the age of 16. They can’t drive. There’s the seniors who have gone past driving and are taking public transit and they depend on those buses. Whether they’re the only ones who ride it at eight o’clock in the morning or 10 o’clock in the morning is irrelevant to me.”
Both Cornfield and Samson said they had concerns in particular when it comes to the seniors living in and around 16th Avenue and those who access the Seniors Centre in the Campbell River Common Mall through public transit.
A group of seniors at Ironwood Place told the Mirror last month about how they are terrified to try and catch the bus now that the bus stop across from their building has been taken away. Now they have to walk down Ironwood to 16th Avenue, cross the street at an uncontrolled crosswalk and wait at a bus stop that is little more than a patch of grass. The other issue is there is no curb or sidewalk at the bus stop, which the bus driver needs in order to lower the ramp to help riders get their wheelchairs and walkers onto the bus.
Jonathan Dyck, communications manager for BC Transit, told the Mirror that the bus stop would be reviewed with the city which is responsible for bus stop infrastructure. He also said that BC Transit is willing to work with individuals and groups who have concerns about the changes.
“Anytime a significant change is made, it takes time to adjust to the new system, and we are committed to working with current and future transit riders,” he says.
Both Dyck and Neufeld said Transit will be reviewing the system six months after the changes were rolled out to gauge how it’s functioning and whether more changes need to be made.
Neufeld said that in the meantime, city staff, along with BC Transit, “will continue to respond to the individual issues and concerns that are brought to our attention.”
Mayor Andy Adams urged all on council to report any comments or concerns received from the community to BC Transit and city staff.