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View Full Version : North Vancouver Has Worst Transit Service in Lower Mainland

Rusty Gull
Nov 2, 2007, 5:59 AM
Busted buses
By Sam Cooper - North Shore Outlook - November 01, 2007

Next stop - North Vancouver’s Sue Cook stands on an old bus at Lonsdale Quay. She is taking aim at the public transit system which she says poorly serves those with physical disabilities on the North Shore. Daniel Pi photo

North Vancouver has the worst bus service in the Lower Mainland for riders with limited mobility, and TransLink can’t do much to fix the problem now.

That’s the opinion of Jim Houlihan, a former bus driver in North Vancouver with over 30 years experience who now represents drivers as vice-president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 111.

Houlihan has extensive knowledge of Lower Mainland transportation issues, and says the region is facing an unprecedented crisis due to lack of infrastructure.

Nowhere is the shortfall more acute than North Vancouver, which has the oldest buses in the region.

Most of the 73 buses that run North Van routes are 14- to 16-year-old high-floor buses that are prone to breakdowns and inaccessible for many passengers, Houlihan says.

But the necessary fleet update is impossible because the city’s 100-year-old bus depot is over capacity and can’t host new low-floor buses seen in West Vancouver and across the Lower Mainland.

Houlihan said operations in North Vancouver suffer because the old buses must employ slow-loading wheelchair lifts, which take about four minutes per load for mobility-challenged passengers. But worse, the lifts can not be deployed on many North Van routes because of steep grades.

“North Vancouver has the worst service for elderly people and those with disability issues and people with baby strollers,” Houlihan said.

He added drivers often must step out to help mobility-challenged riders and take extra time to load wheelchairs and baby strollers inside the cramped spaces of the old buses, which slows service down, and results in a high number of pass-bys and missed connections in North Van.

“It impacts all passengers, you get 40 people standing at the Phibbs Exchange in the rain (due to missed connections,)” he said.

North Vancouver bus rider Sue Cook said the status of service on the North Shore amounts to discrimination.

“Just watching some of these people get on is painful, I get so angry,” Cook said in an interview, while watching an elderly man with a cane slowly mount the steps to a high-floor bus at Lonsdale Quay.

She said she frequently sees people tripping and falling on the old buses, and with an aging population, the problem will get worse.

“It’s discrimination, we’re the only ones stuck with these old buses,” she said. “How can you call it a public system if it’s difficult for half of the people to get on half the routes in North Vancouver?”

She added many riders she talks to consider Phibbs Exchange hazardous.

“If you are sitting at Phibbs at night, anyone can attack you.”

TransLink spokesperson Drew Snider acknowledged a “significant” number of stops in North Van are inaccessible, and didn’t disagree with Houlihan’s conclusion that the area has the worst service in the region for mobility-challenged riders.

“He’s not far off base, we’re sensitive to that and trying to address it,” Snider said. “On the grades in North Vancouver it’s hard to safely operate the wheelchair lift, so (access) is a problem.”

Snider said since the proposal to put a new depot in Norgate was shut down, TransLink does not see any viable new options.

However, Snider said TransLink will start running a new low-floor bus out of Burnaby on Dec. 3, the 229 Lonsdale, which will improve accessibility on Lonsdale.

Snider also said TransLink recognizes the Phibbs Exchange has had some safety problems, including a recent assault.

“One of the issues is it is isolated,” Snider said. “Some high-density development and all-hours commercial activity (in the area) would make sense...(but) TransLink does not own the land.”

CNV Mayor Darrell Mussatto also did not dispute Houlihan’s opinion of North Vancouver’s poor bus service.

“It doesn’t surprise me, I know we are near the bottom,” Mussatto said. “It’s distressing to me that some seniors can’t make it up the steps.”

“The bottom line is we need low-floor buses for our aging population.”

Mussatto said he has scoured “every square inch” of city land, but can’t find space for a new depot, which means West Vancouver or the District of North Vancouver will have to step up.

“We are still looking. It’s more of a challenge than ever,” Mussatto said.

DNV Mayor and TransLink board member Richard Walton was contacted but not available for interview.

With the dearth of new depot options, Houlihan said TransLink has been considering a Plan B of running the whole North Van fleet out of Burnaby in 2009 or 2010. But projected increases in Second Narrows Bridge traffic make the plan problematic.

“You are vulnerable to anything going wrong on the bridge,” Houlihan said.

He added running North Van buses out of Burnaby would be a superficial solution, and the longer it takes to source land for a new depot, the worse the problem will get.

“We’re doing crisis management in bus operations day to day...(service) is the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Nov 2, 2007, 6:02 AM
I have to agree... but North Vancouver has their plans in improving the transit network such as new sea bus terminal (much needed [they should refirbish the interiors of the of the Seabus]), new bus terminal, streetcar system, etc.

I really like North Vancouver... it's such a beautiful place... sadly, the infrastructure is not even close to adequete (which is very important for me)

Nov 2, 2007, 6:10 AM
North Van passed a by-law(?) a couple of years ago to shut down the plan to build a new depot that can handle low floor buses after the land is found and secured, and now they're complaining that all the buses running now are high floors...

Nov 3, 2007, 5:15 AM
The existing depot is in the City. It was North Van District council that rejected the new bus depot by Pemberton Station. It's in an industrial area and the West Van bus depot is nearby. The residents complained about traffic. Now they're going to use the site for a Costco.

Rusty Gull
Nov 5, 2007, 2:55 AM
Actually, the site that was supposed to host the new bus depot will instead be home to the future sewage treatment facility.

Unfortunately for the residents of the Norgate neighbourhood, they are going from a minor nuisance (the bus depot) to something much, much more cringe-inducing.

Nov 5, 2007, 3:39 AM
Actually, the site that was supposed to host the new bus depot will instead be home to the future sewage treatment facility.

Unfortunately for the residents of the Norgate neighbourhood, they are going from a minor nuisance (the bus depot) to something much, much more cringe-inducing.

unfortunately? you mean that they deserved it.