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TransLink to shutter its North Shore depot; DNV councillor says service 'incompetent'
An angry District of North Vancouver council is calling out TransLink after representatives from the local bus drivers' union and the Capilano University students' union complained to council Monday about transit service on the North Shore.
What started as a co-presentation about long waits for overcrowded buses roiled into a move to summon TransLink to district hall to explain its services and future plans.
"The worst part in my mind is that every one of these students are paying a mandatory U-Pass fee and they're getting served miserably," Coun. Alan Nixon said, referring to the $120-per semester student bus pass.
"This just speaks to complete incompetence in terms of scheduling and demand management," he added.
Gavin Davies, vice-president of the Canadian Auto Workers Local 111 — the union representing TransLink operators — said the problem is a gross shortage of buses across the whole Metro Vancouver region, with the North Shore already at capacity for storing its current fleet.
"We're probably — based on what TransLink was seeing in the mid-2000s — about 400 buses short, system wide," Davies said, adding any new funding TransLink gets should be spent immediately on more buses.
"We don't need to have brand new buses. There are many areas in the United States where we can buy good used buses that are very similar to what we already have in our fleet," Davies said.
"But even if we get those buses, the problem we face on the North Shore is where do we park them?"
There are currently 82 buses that operate on the North Shore, not including West Vancouver's separate Blue Bus fleet. When service shuts down at night, those 82 buses are parked at the North Vancouver Transit Centre at 536 East 3rd St. with no capacity to add more vehicles.
But that depot is scheduled to close in 2015 and there are no current plans for replacement, leaving the North Shore dependent upon the Burnaby Transit Centre across the Second Narrows Bridge for all services until 2028 at the earliest.
"If there's any incident on the bridge, you're going to have absolutely no bus service on the North Shore and that's what the big concern here is. We know this date is coming," Davies said.
TransLink spokesman Derek Zabel told The Outlook on Tuesday that TransLink would like to add those much needed buses across the system but "the money needs to come from somewhere," and so, in the meantime, "we have to make due with what we've got."
Zabel said the closing of the North Van transit centre will coincide with the 2015 opening of the new Hamilton Transit Centre in Richmond, where many buses now operated out of Burnaby will be sent, making room for the North Shore fleet.
"The earliest we would be able to return to North Vancouver under our current planning would be 2028," Zabel added.
Coun. Roger Bassam called it unacceptable that North Vancouver's transit access would be at the mercy of an accident or police incident on the bridge.
"It's very important TransLink hears the message we don't want those resources not available to us," he said.
Mayor Richard Walton, who chairs the Metro Vancouver mayors' council for regional transportation, summoned TransLink to answer questions before council on the "status or lack of status" of the North Vancouver Transit Centre as well as on service to Capilano University and the school's U-Pass program.