Cowrie plan would disrupt 500 daily transit riders

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
May 17, 2013 01:00 AM

The District of Sechelt's plan to make Cowrie a one-way street on June 21 will disrupt about 500 transit passengers a day, moving them to a less safe and convenient location, the head of the Sunshine Coast Transit System warned last week.

The District of Sechelt's plan to make Cowrie a one-way street on June 21 will disrupt about 500 transit passengers a day, moving them to a less safe and less convenient location, the head of the Sunshine Coast Transit System warned last week.

Reporting to the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) community services committee on May 9, Brian Sagman told directors that options would be limited for re-routing the four regional bus routes if Cowrie Street goes one-way next month.

"We pick up about 500 people a day in front of the Trail Bay Mall and those people would all now have to venture over to either Teredo or Dolphin, or from Dolphin, in order to conclude the trip, which is quite a significant inconvenience for them," Sagman said

One of the biggest obstacles, he said, was finding sufficient curb space for layovers.

"There's very few options within the Sechelt area for that kind of space, but the one location where there is space is in front of the Watermark development," he said.

An option presented to the committee would locate the layover for the Gibsons bus on the south side of Teredo Street (Highway 101) just west of Inlet Avenue, while creating a new stop on Teredo across from Trail Bay Mall and one on the east side of Trail Avenue, north of Cowrie.

"There are no options for re-routing transit that will not have negative impacts," Sagman said. "In the case of the proposed re-routes we see the need for passengers to walk further, less safe and convenient transfers, less convenient service to mobility and sight challenged members of the community, and less effective transit coverage in the downtown core."

SCRD directors expressed serious concerns about the impact on transit users, and some suggested Sechelt businesses would also be hurt.

"The first thing that hits me is how many of those 500 people are shoppers?" said SCRD board chair Garry Nohr. "Are they now far away from their shopping routines, and how many of them are handicapped people? There's more than meets the eye here."

Nohr also pointed to the logistics of moving bus shelters, revising timetables, informing the public of route changes, and the issues that would arise if the plan is put in place and then cancelled in October after council reviews it.

"Once you open up a can of worms you discover other things," he said.

While "not saying it's a good decision or a bad decision," Nohr said the problem was that "a lot of this information hadn't been sought out before District of Sechelt council made their decision."

Predicting the plan would eventually be scrapped, Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar dubbed it "a colossal waste of energy."

Committee chair and West Howe Sound director Lee Turnbull also pointed to the staff time consumed since the SCRD learned about the proposal on April 3.

"I'm concerned for the transit user down at the other end, which pays Brian's salary as well," Turnbull said.

"I think the safety issue needs to be clearly identified," said Gibsons alternate director Lee Ann Johnson. "I have some real concerns about where they'll have the bus stop. I would think the Trail Bay (Mall) merchants would be very concerned about that as well. Having to go across a major highway, in a wheelchair, with no traffic light?"

Defending the plan, District of Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers acknowledged that a survey conducted by the District showed less than 50 per cent of participants wanted Cowrie to become a one-way street, but "the people who didn't agree with that wanted to close it," she said.

"So there's people out there looking for changes," Siegers said. "We know it's a hassle for everybody and we're looking at what the options are to take back to the public and see where it goes."

After the original May 17 date for implementation was announced, a survey conducted by the Sechelt and District Chamber of Commerce found 78 per cent of 263 respondents opposed the plan.

In a motion ratified that evening by the board, administration was directed to submit a comprehensive list of concerns from the SCRD and BC Transit to the District, highlighting safety, cost and staff-time issues.

The letter, signed by Nohr, specifies that all implementation costs will be borne by the District, if the plan proceeds.

Two BC Transit officials attended the meeting and appeared with Sagman before the committee.

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