Overlooking Burnaby and Vancouver from its vantage point at 3755 McGill St., Seton Villa provides its more than 200 residents with a broad view of the surrounding world from the 19th floor common area.
But residents of the seniors' highrise are afraid their access to that world will be cut off by proposed changes to two community shuttle routes in the area.
More than a dozen residents gathered recently to share their concerns - and a petition with four and a half pages of signatures - with the NOW.
"We've built our whole life in Burnaby," says former Liberal MP and journalist Simma Holt, a resident of Seton Villa for nearly three years.
Holt previously lived in Vancouver and, along with the other residents who gathered last week, says she has formed new relationships with the business and service providers in The Heights.
TransLink is considering changing and combining the two neighbourhood routes, to be serviced by one shuttle instead of two, extending service along Hastings Street east to Kensington Square. Weekday service along the new route would decrease from every 30 minutes to every hour.
These changes would limit the residents' access to doctors' offices, pharmacies, optometrists and shops in the neighbourhood, the residents say.
Holt wrote a letter on behalf of the residents, explaining their concerns.
"Today's major demographic is senior citizens. And it seems that a huge majority in greater Vancouver have chosen Burnaby as the last city in which to live out the last years of their lives," she wrote. "It would be a crime for TransLink to reduce this service that is so vital to many seniors just for the sake of a few dollars."
Ross Campbell, a resident who arranged the meeting with the NOW, says he uses the C1 shuttle to transfer to other buses, heading out to Horseshoe Bay to take the ferry when it is free for seniors, eating lunch in Nanaimo or on the Sunshine Coast.
He also uses it when he visits a friend in Langley, he says.
Gertie Grosser, who has lived at Seton Villa for seven years, says she uses the shuttle to transfer to another bus, which she takes to Burnaby Hospital to visit residents who are hospitalized. The day that the NOW visited Seton Villa, 11 residents were away at the hospital.
She also visits former residents at care homes when they move on, she adds.
Norma Catrano, who has been a resident for four years, keeps herself active and engaged in the community by taking transit.
"I have a bus pass and I want to use it. It gets me out," she says.
The group grew during the late afternoon visit, and more people voiced their concerns - for neighbours and staff, as well.
Many of the kids in the neighbourhood use the shuttle to go to and from school, and staff members use it to get to work, they point out.
They hope the neighbours will support them and fight for the shuttle, too, they say.
"Some of them live in the houses that their mothers and fathers lived in, and now their mothers and fathers are here," Campbell says.
Campbell is most concerned with one major change to the route - where the C1 shuttle currently turns right onto Hastings Street at Willingdon Avenue, loops around after Gilmore Avenue, and picks up passengers in front of Safeway before turning left back onto Willingdon.
If the route must be changed, he would like to see the shuttle go past Hastings Street along Willingdon, turn right at Pender Street behind the Safeway and then loop around on Rosser Avenue, turning back onto Willingdon.
None of the residents expressed an interest in traveling to Kensington instead of The Heights to access the businesses and services there, as they are familiar with the merchants in the area, there are more services in The Heights, and it is closer to their residence, they say.
Other residents were quite concerned that the frequency of weekday service would change to every hour.
Staff are concerned about that as well, according to Fran McDougall, executive director at Seton Villa.
"One thing we are focusing on is, with service being changed to only once per hour, the impact on our staff," she said.
"Because there are several staff that come by bus and, if they miss their connection, then that will make them a full hour late for work."
McDougall and the staff are asking that TransLink keep the current schedule during business hours.
TransLink is currently compiling the responses to its public consultation last month and no decisions have been made as of yet, according to Marisa Espinosa, TransLink's senior manager for planning.
Espinosa previously told the NOW the proposed changes are intended to accommodate more people in the area.
"It does have an impact certainly on the frequency but it would reduce where C1 and C2 duplicate other routes on Hastings Street," she said.
There is some overlap with the two routes, she said, and TransLink is looking at how to shift the routes to provide more coverage and also address low ridership issues.
Route C1 currently travels between the Kootenay Loop and the intersection of Hastings Street and Gilmore Avenue, and route C2 travels between the Capitol Hill areaand the intersection of Hastings Street and Gilmore Avenue.
The new combined route would travel between the Kootenay Loop and the intersection of Hastings Street and Willingdon Avenue, still passing Seton Villa, but would then travel east on Hastings Street to Capitol Hill and loop around Kensington Square Shopping Centre.
There would be some change of service on Capitol Hill, as well, with the shuttle no longer looping back at Cambridge Street; instead it would travel along Dundas Street to Kensington.
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