Powell River resident Diane Wolyniec has appealed to city councillors to back improved bus service to Vancouver.
Speaking at the Tuesday, September 3, committee of the whole meeting, Wolyniec said she is not interested in an enhancement of the fractured service of late. She urged councillors to picture this scenario: ride on a bus, get off, ride on a ferry, walk off, ride on a bus, get off, ride on a ferry and walk off for a very long walk to Horseshoe Bay’s public bus and on again into downtown Vancouver and off again, only to think about where you are going next.
“This doesn’t work for people with luggage, or parents with young children in tow, or seniors and people with mobility issues,” said Wolyniec.
What remains for people wanting to get to Vancouver is flying, which is very expensive, said Wolyniec. It’s unaffordable for some, which leaves cars and the carbon footprint they generate, she added.
“What we want is a public service, seven days a week; a BC Transit bus and a BC Transit driver, with health and safety for him or herself, and the riders in mind,” said Wolyniec. “What we know is Powell River is getting more and more people moving here and we invite them through the city’s website, among other things.
“Powell River is not remote, it’s geographically challenged. So, we are forced to drive our cars on the ferries. We have a major highway to our city but no public conveyance to get to Vancouver.”
Wolyniec said there should be a bus route from Powell River, stopping in Pender Harbour, Sechelt, Gibsons, stopping at the train station on Main Street in Vancouver, which connects to SkyTrain, and the last stop being Vancouver International Airport. The bus should then return in the afternoon.
“This is servicing four communities,” said Wolyniec.
She had a petition that stated the signatories wish to have resumption of the bus service of 10 years ago. Signatures have been collected from the lower Sunshine Coast as well as Powell River. The goal was for 1,000 signatures but the petition was signed by 2,000 people.
Wolyniec asked that mayor Dave Formosa take a signed letter regarding the issue to the upcoming Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) convention this month to give to BC premier John Horgan, transportation minister Claire Trevena and BC Transit CEO Erinn Pinkerton.
Formosa said in the past, the private enterprise that ran the bus subsidized the operation by carrying freight. Those freight opportunities have dwindled down, he said. Formosa added that he would like to see the province fund a bus from Powell River, taking care of the lower Sunshine Coast and going to Vancouver in the way Wolyniec described.
“We can ask and we are trying to get a meeting with the minister of transportation,” said Formosa. “We could make that request.”
Formosa said what has been happening is an initiative from qathet Regional District to have the paratransit bus go seven days a week from Powell River to Earls Cove, so riders don’t get off at Saltery Bay with their luggage and have to board the ferry as walk-ons.
“What I’ve requested is the province fund a bus that would run daily to Earls Cove and then a bus on the lower Sunshine Coast would meet the passengers on the other side,” said Formosa. “Those folks would get on that bus and go to Langdale, take their bags, go to Horseshoe Bay and get the city bus from there.”
He said there was also the opportunity to push for the paratransit bus to carry passengers to Horseshoe Bay, but he said he was not holding his breath for that opportunity.
“It’s always been a private service,” said Formosa. “It’s never been a public service.”
He said the busing problem is occurring around the province, where larger bus companies are abandoning rural communities because there is no business there for them to run these buses.
Councillor George Doubt said if something can work with the bus system and provide better transportation than is in existence now, it would be a step forward.
“Having a public system that goes from here to the airport is great and I support that,” said Doubt. He added that the possibility of getting it would likely be a long road and he supports making baby steps in trying to get a system in place.
Councillor Jim Palm, chair of the committee of the whole, said a new transportation committee has been struck with the regional district. He said the committee is reviewing all transportation documents and coming up with a priority list.
“I can assure you our number one transportation priority is a transportation link between here and the Lower Mainland,” said Palm. “We have to lobby hard at UBCM and talk to the minister directly and see if we can get any movement and leeway in our request.”
Formosa said if a meeting cannot be set up at UBCM, Powell River representatives will be heading to Victoria directly to get a meeting with the minister.