Long bus waits will continue for students

The wait to get on a bus can be very, very long. Photo by Laura Shortt.

The wait to get on a bus can be very, very long. Photo by Laura Shortt.

Any student at BCIT who uses transit has probably noticed the maddeningly long bus line-ups every Wednesday afternoon in front of the Burnaby campus.  On these days, it is not unusual for a student to have to wait in line as two, three, or sometimes more buses pass before being able to board one.

It does not help that every second northbound #130 bus that stops at BCIT during peak hours is destined for Capilano University, which means it already has students on board.

This transit issue stems from the fact that on Wednesdays, classes for technology, trades, and apprenticeship programs finish at the same time.

Why? Simply put, a three-hour break between classes from 2:30 to 5:30PM is written into the Faculty and Staff Association contract.

As a result, over 10, 000 students exit the Burnaby campus at roughly the same time every Wednesday.

Compounding the problem is construction that has been taking place on Willingdon Avenue for several months as part of the city’s Port Mann/Highway 1 Improvement Project.  This project has closed what was an additional south bound bus stop at the north end of BCIT. Currently, there is only one bus stop in the vicinity of BCIT for southbound transit users.

Student opinions on the subject are heated.  Second-year Marketing Management student Marvin Wong told The Link, “It’s really annoying.  I have to wait three or four buses [on Wednesday afternoons].”

First-year Marketing student Jon Lau said, “Often I’ll take the bus to Brentwood—which goes in the opposite direction to where I’m going—get off at Brentwood and then loop back just to get on a bus… They could definitely increase the number of buses and how often they come.”

Frustration is not limited to students.

A BCIT employee who wished to remain anonymous told The Link, “I’ve seen a student almost get hit by a bus waiting in line during peak hours. They craned their neck over the road to see if a bus was coming and almost got smacked. The RCMP traffic enforcement might like to look at the issue.”

Interestingly, the U-Pass seems to have exacerbated matters.  Senior Development Planner in Facilities and Campus Development Mike Newell says that campus use of transit has gone up since its implementation at BCIT in 2011.

But what can be done?

According to Newell, BCIT is “trying to facilitate greater use of transit [but] unfortunately we don’t control Translink. We do engage Translink, but they’re the ones who decide.”

A customer relations representative for Translink told The Link that the company is aware of the issue and has received numerous complaints; but that there is little that can be done.

Spending by the company has been greatly reduced since an audit by the provincial government in 2012 that suggested ways for Translink to save up to $41 million.

In other words, Translink is not going to increase the number of buses that pass BCIT during peak hours any time soon.

It looks like students and employees alike are just going to have to sit on their mounting transit frustrations.