Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington is hoping TransLink will make the transit journey into Vancouver a little more comfortable and less frightening for the elderly.
"This is not a pretend issue. This has really serious consequences for seniors and, obviously, anything TransLink can do to make the experience at Bridgeport (station in Richmond) a nicer one is welcome," she told the Optimist this week.
South Deltans lost their direct bus service into Vancouver when the Canada Line rapid transit service began operating in 2009. Residents here are now bussed to the Bridgeport Station next to the River Rock Casino Resort, where they board the Canada Line. The location and configuration of the station has made the trip a less than desirable one for seniors, she said.
"I'm nervous there and I don't go in the evenings," Huntington said.
"I have had so many complaints. One woman was so distressed in my office that we contemplated calling an ambulance. Another complained how she felt isolated and couldn't get down to see her friends and feels tied down."
The independent MLA has been pitching to TranLink the idea of having one direct bus daily to downtown Vancouver, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon.
She said it would not affect the Canada Line rush hour revenue. Even a bus just once or twice weekly would be welcome, she said.
Huntington spoke to government officials and Transportation Minster Blair Lekstrom about the idea, but admits it's something that might not get a chance.
Lekstrom wrote to Huntington recently, saying Bridgeport Station was built to ensure accessibility and visibility, including the location of the HandyDART stop, which is close to the station entrance.
"With regards to your comments about how transit service in Delta South has changed, integration of bus service with the Canada Line allowed TransLink to run more frequent and reliable service south of the Fraser. Service hours saved by not running to downtown Vancouver were reinvested in increasing the frequency of services connecting to the Canada Line," Lekstrom said.
The minister noted ridership on the four South Delta/Vancouver routes (601, 602, 603 and 604) has increased since the Canada Line opened and TransLink's customer satisfaction reports show overall satisfaction on the four routes has returned to the same level as before the integration.
In her letter in response, Huntington told Lekstrom he made no mention of the isolation and nervousness elderly individuals feel transiting an unfamiliar, unfriendly, outdoor facility. Noting there are no benches at the station and seldom any security, Huntington said it's an environment the elderly don't want to travel to at night.
She said many now feel stranded, unable to get to medical appointments or go downtown for shopping or visit family and friends outside their community.
"It is untenable and uncaring," she said.
In the meantime, Huntington is to meet with TransLink officials about changes to the Canada Line station.
"I'm willing to meet to see what they're suggesting, but it's obviously going to need further discussion with seniors in the riding. If any of the options are reasonable, I'll set up some meetings with seniors in Delta to discuss them with them, but I know what they ultimately really need and want is another bus," she said.