In a letter to B.C. Transit, the parent advisory council of William Konkin Elementary School (WKE) asked B.C. Transit to reconsider a proposed bus stop location and bus route in Burns Lake.
As part of the Hwy. 16 action plan, a $5-million plan that will have buses connecting the Hwy. 16 corridor between Prince George and Prince Rupert, B.C. Transit proposes a bus stop near WKE.
“It is imperative that our children be safe and protected; we feel that transit buses travelling through residential areas and stopping near the schools put all our children at risk,” says a letter signed by Shannon Adams, chair of WKE’s parent advisory council. “As a result, the WKE parent advisory council is urging you to reconsider the proposed route and eliminate the route traveling through our residential areas and stopping near our school.”
“It is our understanding that although all residents are welcome to utilize the transit system, the main priority is to prevent individuals from hitchhiking,” she continues. “As parents of young children, it does not seem suitable that a stop would be in the general vicinity of an elementary school.”
During a recent board meeting of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako, Smithers Mayor Taylor Bachrach said the views expressed in the letter were “concerning.”
“I do find it a little bit concerning the implied understanding that the people who use transit are somehow putting our children at risk,” said Bachrach. “I don’t think there’s any evidence for that; and I would be very concerned if that was the feeling in the community – that the people who are using transit were somehow putting children at risk.”
“If we keep going down that path of thinking these are dangerous people, I think that’s a really unfortunate tone to have around this transit service because what we’re trying to do is provide transportation for everybody to get the services they need.”
Director of Electoral Area E, Eileen Benedict, said the main concern is not about safety, but that having a bus stop near WKE is simply not the best option. She said she’s been hearing lots of comments from community members questioning that chosen location.
“There is not a lot of space there [at WKE],” she said. “When school is in [session], that parking lot is full.”
Burns Lake acting mayor John Illes also said the advice from WKE’s parent advisory council should be taken into account.
“At this point, I think the bus route shouldn’t include the loop through the populated areas,” he said.
Vanderhoof Mayor Gerry Thiessen said he feels communities weren’t thoroughly consulted by B.C. Transit when it comes to bus stop locations.
“This really shows that there is a need for more interaction between us and B.C. Transit,” he said.
Thiessen said he hopes that once the Hwy. 16 action plan is in place, communities will be able to make changes to bus stop locations as it best suits their needs.
Jonathon Dyck, a spokesperson for B.C. Transit, confirmed that B.C. Transit has received the letter.
“As we do in all cases where we receive concerns or questions form the public, we will follow-up directly and take the feedback into consideration,” he said. “B.C. Transit has developed the proposed Hwy. 16 transit plan based on feedback from our public consultations and with local governments and local First Nations.”
“We appreciate public feedback and are happy to discuss their concerns,” he added. “Many of the stops in Burns Lake are still open for discussion, and the decision of placement will be made at the local level; local governments are currently considering the updated transit proposal, and depending on the direction received will have an implementation plan later this fall.”
During Burns Lake council’s meeting last week, council passed a motion to recommend B.C. Transit not to build a bus stop near WKE.