White Rock doubles down on rejecting tree pruning for TransLink buses

Dec 9 2020, 8:36 pm

Double deckers will not be used on the No. 354 Bridgeport Station/White Rock South bus route anytime soon, after White Rock City Council doubled down on its Summer 2020 decision against taking the necessary steps to accommodate the high clearance vehicles on its roads.

In a 5-2 vote on Monday, city council rejected Mayor Darryl Walker’s motion calling for a reconsideration of city council’s previous decision, which would have directed city staff to prune trees along the bus route.

The reconsideration process involved a vote on rescinding the decision, and if that had been successful city council would have conducted a revote on the original staff recommendation.

“The No. 354 is one of the most popular bus routes through South Surrey and White Rock,” said Walker.

“The trees that we talked about in the past need to be pruned in order for the double deckers to run. If we don’t agree with it, then the changes are the double decker buses will go somewhere else and will be replaced by single deck buses… Unfortunately because of what has happened with COVID-19, they’re not sure what they can replace the buses with at this point, and it is something to be seriously considered.”

According to a previous city staff report, trees at a total of 16 locations require pruning, with 12 locations being “straight forward” changes, while the remaining four locations require “heavy pruning.” This includes pruning over 25% of seven trees, and the removal of one tree.

Pruning is required to maintain a safe clearance and visibility for double-decker bus operations. The municipal government would bear the $5,200 cost of pruning, as it is responsible for roads and the maintenance of the right-of-way.

Example of the required tree pruning in White Rock for double-decker buses on the No. 354 route. (Urban Grove Tree Care & Consulting/City of White Rock)

Double-decker buses provide a significant capacity increase and added comfort for passengers, while also only taking the same footprint on the road as a standard, single-level, 40-ft-long bus.

“I get the reason behind this and the intentions are good, but I feel that TransLink has not given South Surrey good service… They’re giving us the option of a double decker versus a community bus, and double decker means trimming trees. And trees should come before convenience for TransLink,” said councillor Scott Kristjanson.

“In my opinion, there’s also the double lengthy (60-ft-long articulated) buses they haven’t given us the option for or using the standard buses that exist today. It’s just cost savings for them but it’s ‘de-greening’ our community. I can’t support this.”

The entirety of TransLink’s initial fleet of 32 double-decker buses went into service in September 2020, when the No. 351 Crescent Beach/Bridgeport Station route was upgraded to a double-decker service.

Other routes that use the double-decker models include the No. 301 Newton Exchange/Richmond-Brighouse Station, No. 620 Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal/Bridgeport Station, and No. 555 Carvolth Exchange/Lougheed Town Centre Station.

The public transit authority is dedicating its double-decker buses for longer haul, suburban routes.

An additional order of 25 double-decker buses is expected to arrive by the second quarter of 2021.

According to TransLink’s latest statistics, in 2019, the No. 354 recorded 222,000 annual boardings, with an average of 890 boardings per weekday. It ranked as the region’s 140th busiest route out of 216 total routes. The potential holds for the No. 354 to be eventually upgraded to an all-day, seven-day service in the future, if it were to become a double-decker service.

On the other hand, the No. 351 saw 2.18 million annual boardings, with an average of 6,600 weekday boardings, 4,960 Saturday boardings, and 4,310 Sunday and holiday boardings. It is the region’s 45th busiest bus route.

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