BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — Heymann Yip’s day job requires him to drive from city to city, and when he’s stopped at a red light to take in his surroundings, the gears in his mind begin to turn.
For a while, he’s been driving past different bus stops in the City of Burnaby, and, in his opinion, a number of them aren’t safe. Yip is a citizens’ representative on the city’s Public Safety Committee, so he says this is a topic that means a lot to him.
“I take certain routes, and what I notice, younger females standing at one of the bus stops there, and it just reminded me that…that was my daughter. There’s no lighting, and if there was someone in the bushes, someone could be dragged in there, and no one would ever know…and that’s how it started the conversation,” he tells NEWS 1130.
Yip says bus stop safety is nothing new, but he believes this is a concern that need to be addressed immediately, and something he brought up during a meeting with the city in January.
His thoughts also come as a number of women have shared stories about feeling unsafe being out and about in Metro Vancouver.
Yip asked that city staff go out and take a look for themselves to see whether the stops were unsafe, and Yip says they told him they recognized the lighting needed far more illumination than it currently had.
“The only solution was, they’re still investigating whether those lights need to be changed over to LED,” he says, noting he’s been told some of the costs incurred could end up being quite high.
As for how high, Yip says he was quoted thousands of dollars when he spoke to staff, and that’s just to make sure that the basics of safety are covered off at each questionable stop.
“Currently speaking, there are 968 bus stops in the City of Burnaby, out of which 231 have an actual shelter. We still have 737 bus stops that either has another bench, or no enhancements at all, meaning there’s no bench at all, you just have to stand there,” he says.
Yip says he was also told that TransLink might have to get involved, depending on where the bus stops are, and if they are located near brush that can’t be cut back. In those cases, they would potentially have to be relocated.
TransLink has confirmed to NEWS 1130 there is an agreement that Coast Mountain Bus Company and municipalities would share 50/50 costs to relocate stops and/or shelters for safety and/or accessibility purposes.
Ultimately, Yip says he doesn’t want to have to wait until someone is attacked or assaulted for someone to make a change, preferring to make improvements to protect people now.
“The primary reason why the city doesn’t want to move forward on making sure every bus stop has a shelter is that it costs approximately $30,000 to install,” Yip says. His math puts the spending cost at $22 million.
“For 2021, there are only 20 new shelters scheduled for installation, and in 2020, they only installed 16,” he notes.
Yip says this is an issue that affects everyone, and not just people living or taking transit in Burnaby.
“We should be proactive, making sure we take care of issues that are raised, instead of having to deal with it in a reactionary way,” he explains.
We’re working on it: City of Burnaby
Doug Louie is the Assistant Director of Engineering Services for the city, and he says he understands the concerns, and that they will be addressed.
“I’ve just been made aware that there was some concerns at some stops that didn’t have sufficient lighting,” he tells NEWS 1130.
As for whether the city has been hesitant to make changes to the stop, Louie said staff are doing all they can to ensure they are providing modern bus shelters with lighting and other amenities.
“Many often have advertising kiosks or panels, but we have a thousand of these, and a lot of them don’t have bus shelters, and they probably don’t need bus shelters because bus shelters are usually used for bus stops where we have a lot of people using that bus stop. Some bus stops are only used by a handful of people every day. What we do try to strive [for] is that they are safe, so we try to have lighting in and around the bus stops and bus shelters,” he notes.
Louie says of all the shelters that have recently been installed, they are lit.
“In terms of general lighting concerns, what the city is doing is looking at all the streets that may need more lighting or lighting in general, and that should help resolve many of the problems. It’s not just about lighting in shelters, it’s lighting in streets, so we have a program to look at all our streets and make sure that they’re appropriately lit, particularly on our main streets,” he says.
He says that should capture some of the safety issued being raised.
“We looked specifically at bus stops that are brought to our attention, and we will look at – I guess, city-wide – where there is bus stops without any lighting nearby, and we can have a look at that to see what we can do in the short term,” he explains.
Louie says the city has not started on this yet because they still need to assess if the stops of concern are actually an issue.
-With files from Tarnjit Parmar and Kier Junos