Frequency of service, reliability and length of commutes are some of the concerns of industrial park workers regarding the current transit system, according to a recent study sponsored by the Delta Chamber of Commerce and the Richmond Chamber of Commerce and conducted by students of the Business School of BCIT (British Columbia Institute of Technology).
Both chambers of commerce commissioned the survey because lack of transit in Delta and Richmond industrial parks is a threat to companies located there as they try to attract and keep workers who face constant challenges in getting to and from work. As the supply of qualified workers gets smaller this problem grows.
Research by the business student team, of Anna Chou and Gaelen-Devin O’Hagan, investigated the needs and opinion of business owners and managers and workers in terms of transit, and the level of transit service currently provided by Translink, in three industrial parks: Tilbury and Annacis Island industrial parks, in Delta, and Port of Vancouver-Richmond Properties, in Richmond.
According to the business survey, workers in the industrial parks came from all regions of Metro Vancouver. The highest number commute from the Surrey and Langley areas.
Compounding the time taken to travel long distances in many cases, in the opinion of the survey responders, was the frequency and reliability of the current service. Traffic congestion in the Tilbury industrial park area, because of high traffic volume at peak periods and limited access points, was considered an additional aggravation of the workplace access challenge
“What the study told us,” says Delta Chamber of Commerce Board Director David Turbitt, “is workers not using the current transit service because it’s unreliable and infrequent. At peak periods buses which are full will pass by those trying to get to work. Unlike some routes in the metropolitan area, the next bus, even at peak demand, may not arrive for at least another half hour. After a long commute by bus, as it is, that additional wait makes for a very lengthy commute just in one direction. Bus schedules often do not align with workplace schedules. That’s particularly difficult late at night in winter, perhaps in the cold, dark and driving rain, when workers, many who are women, are trying to get home.”
Another reason industrial park workers avoid using public transit is that the bus stops are not “user friendly” and are located in poor surroundings.
Turbitt says, “That’s still the case with some stops, which consist of a sign on a pole, a patch of gravel and one or two lawn chairs provided by individuals, if there is any seating at all. We do acknowledge the upgrades of the 19 bus stops in the Tilbury industrial park, by the Corporation of Delta, so that is a positive outcome of advocacy by the Transportation Management Association, of Tilbury companies and Translink, and the Delta Chamber of Commerce.”
Key findings from research on the existing Translink bus routes found that there was heavy usage of route 640 in the early morning. In Richmond opinion of survey respondents that there was lack of complete daytime coverage by the C98 route. On routes 640 and 104, in Annacis Island, full buses at peak periods “pass up” passengers, leaving them to wait for the next scheduled bus. Another concern of workers, according to the survey, in addition to the condition of some bus stops is the lack of sidewalks for accessing the bus stops.
“Lack of sidewalks are more of a concern for safety than convenience, especially with so many large commercial vehicles running through the industrial parks.”
Recommendations arising from the study include: increasing the frequency of the 640 bus southbound in early morning peak hours, in the Tilbury industrial park area, and
throughout the day, perhaps with mini-bus service operating on an alternate local route in the area. Another general recommendation is to increase the operating hours of the C98, in Richmond, to cover the entire business day from Monday to Friday.
“This study has helped us identify some concerns with the level of transit service. More work needs to be done and we may organize another study to drill down to more specific recommendations. Our aim is to clarify the challenge and identify the need, for the sake of our members and other businesses. We are not out to bash TransLink which is being challenged by serious demands throughout the Metro Vancouver region and with limited resources to be able to respond. A solution may emerge through the private sector. If we can help develop a business case for a private bus service to complement the service provided by Translink that might create a win/win solution for everybody.”