Better transit is needed in Campbell Heights, says Scott Wheatley.
Wheatley, the executive director of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, hosted a roundtable luncheon with key stakeholders May 25 to discuss the transit problems facing both employers and employees in the growing industrial area.
“It’s impossible to get people to Campbell Heights in a reasonable amount of time with the current transit system,” Wheatley said. “The only way to get there via bus is either through White Rock exchange or Langley exchange. There is no north-south bus service.”
Along with business representatives from Campbell Heights, Wheatley brought in representatives from Translink, Douglas McLeod and Mayor Doug McCallum from the city, and representatives from the offices of local-area politicians.
“Businesses in Campbell Heights have multiple shifts,” he said. “Bus service mostly works for the day shift, but not for the afternoon and night shifts. People on those shifts are required to find alternative transportation as buses do not run in the area at night.”
Wheatley said increased hours of service won’t solve another problem the area is facing: to few bus stops.
“They’re all concentrated in one area,” he said. “This means employees may have to walk upwards of 20 minutes to get to work.”
Wheatley said everyone at the luncheon recognized the problems with transit service in the area.
“I got really good feedback from everyone and the mayor was really supportive.”
Lani Clements, with Van Gogh Designs, thinks better bus service could help with employee retention.
“Transportation is a major inhibitor for us as we are actively hiring due to increased demand in our business since COVID-19,” Clements said in a statement provided to the Cloverdale Chamber. “One of the challenges we have is our applicants often don’t drive. We see a lot of resumes from central Surrey, Delta, Abbotsford, Maple Ridge and Langley.”
Clements said their operating hours often run outside of the peak transit service hours.
“Bus schedules that factored in this area’s industrial worker hours would absolutely help businesses grow and employ and retain workers,” Clements added. “Since there is no shelter from the elements, some dedicated bus shelters would be ideal for commuters.”
In another statement provided to the Chamber, Stacey Wilson with Culligan Water also said the lack of good bus service was major problem for them.
“Transportation is a real challenge for our temporary workers,” Wilson said. “When hiring staff, we have to give a disclosure to new employees. In the five years I’ve been employed at this location, there has been no improvement. We see lots of people at the bus stops waiting and we worry about our growing industry with little transport in the area.”
Sarah Smith, with Mercana Furniture & Decor Ltd., also provided a statement to the Cloverdale Chamber on some of the problems she sees with the current service, such as the lengthy distance from her building to a bus stop and bus service ending well before Mercana’s afternoon shift finishes.
“Only employees with vehicles can work second shifts,” she said. “It can take 20 minutes to walk to a bus stop. The big problem is that we have shift workers who cannot get a bus when the 11 p.m. shift ends.”
Wheatley noted Campbell Heights has transit service for about 16 hours a day. Service starts around 5 a.m. and ends at about 9 p.m.
Wheatley said the Chamber wants to see four major changes made to improve the situation.
“The first steps should be to increase the number of bus stops in the area and add a community shuttle to service the entire breadth of Campbell Heights.”
Wheatley said the second big change would be to reconfigure the current bus route and add a bunch of stops that fulfil a “reasonable walking distance” requirement for many businesses.
“Right now, there are three main bus stops along 192nd Street and they are all uncovered,” he said. “This makes commuting even more unbearable as workers are forced to wait in the rain for buses. And adding an additional 20-minute walk to get to the bus stop adds considerable hardship due to the already lengthy commute times.”
Wheatley said KPU offered to build new bus shelters and Mayor McCallum supported the idea. (Cities pay for bus shelters and bus stop construction on all transit routes.)
Wheatley also wants a dedicated bus added that runs non-stop from King George Skytrain Station directly to Campbell Heights.
Wheatley’s fourth major change that he sees as key to improve transit in the area involves adding another service bus to the area.
“Within the next five years, we would like to see additional bus service added to the areas within the boundaries of Campbell Heights. Locations to be considered include 16th Avenue, 176th Street, and 8th Avenue.”
Wheatley said all parties agreed to meet again in four months to review how things are going as Translink wants to keep the lines of communication open.
“There were no, “no’s” at the meeting,” he added. “Everyone recognized there is a problem and we all want to work toward finding solutions that benefit all parties.”