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Brentwood bus loop closure concerns locals

It's never easy when longtime habits suddenly shift, but a few locals are concerned what the Brentwood mall bus loop removal will bring during extreme weather conditions. Dec.
Brentwood mall helen ward
Burnaby resident Helen Ward is concerned about the bus loop's removal from Brentwood mall on Dec. 16. But TransLink and Shape Properties say the switch to curbside bus stops is a better alternative.

It's never easy when longtime habits suddenly shift, but a few locals are concerned what the Brentwood mall bus loop removal will bring during extreme weather conditions.

Dec. 16 was the day the bus loop at the future site of the 'Amazing Brentwood' mall redevelopment closed for good, but it left some locals wondering if that was the best way forward.

"It's going to be interesting," said Carrie McLaren. "My main concern with all of this is safety."

McLaren, a Burnaby resident and Green Party candidate, says she's concerned what icy conditions on the sidewalk and road will do for seniors and disabled patrons trying to access transit.

"It's a dangerous parking lot," McLaren noted. "There are a lot of accidents. There's not really a sidewalk, other than the bus loop sidewalk.

"I keep seeing all these people going around, all the shopping carts, strollers or walkers. The spring usually is fine, but this is winter. If it snows again, and we get some really bad weather, it's going to be an issue."

Helen Ward, also a Burnaby resident, has been vocal about her issues with the Brentwood mall redevelopment, which has led to the closing down of its bus loop.

"There's no danger today, but if it was slippery you'd have people ... physically challenged trying to access the area," she noted.

Ward said she's glad to see the ramp has not been removed or closed. But, the section of the ramp that connects to the bus loop will shut down at some point in the future.

Bus 25, 123, 130, 134 and 136 all moved to temporary street locations near Brentwood's SkyTrain station.

Shape Properties, the company that owns Brentwood mall, had its master concept plan for its redevelopment approved by council in September. Now, the first phase's rezoning application is nearing council's final approval. It's planned for the first 10 acres of the property that would connect it to the SkyTrain station at Willingdon Avenue and Lougheed Highway. Preliminary work has begun on the site in advance of the groundbreaking - including the bus loop's removal. TransLink leased the site where the loop was, but the lease expires at the end of December.

Burnaby Coun. Sav Dhaliwal had raised his concerns about removing the bus loop at several council meetings because he was worried about the various bus stops being chosen around the mall - in some cases too far away for seniors or those with mobility issues - and voted against the move.

"I recognize that during construction, there will be some changes and yes they were going to do the first phase, changing the façade and getting ready ... does make a bit of inconvenience," he said. "It's a bad time right now to do it."

Dhaliwal said he's disappointed by TransLink's efforts and that the authority is out of touch with local concerns.

"We need a more comprehensive plan of a proper bus loop, shelter connecting with the station so people don't have to walk, it's important that it's a minimum," he said. "TransLink doesn't seem to be paying a whole lot of attention to people, they have their own priorities and issues. They don't know the local demands."

But TransLink says it's just doing what it was told to do.

According to Jeff Busby, senior manager of project development and network management at TransLink, the bus loop will most likely never return, as well.

"The buses are now operating on Willingdon and Lougheed Highway," he told the NOW. "Customers looking for buses will go to stops that are on the sidewalks."

The bus stops are temporary and will shift once again when the mall's first phase of redevelopment is done - three years from now, Busby said.

"The locations will shift slightly and they'll be improved from what they are today," he said. "The developer has helped us by providing really large shelters and really pleasant waiting areas on the sidewalk, dependent on when the redevelopment is done."

Busby also said TransLink has held up its end of the bargain by removing the loop from the site in time for the lease's end.

Darren Kwiatkowski, vice-president of development for Shape Properties, said Shape and TransLink have worked with customers extensively to make the right decision about the loop. He also said the sidewalks near the mall will be maintained.

"To help them (TransLink) is fantastic," he said about the future improved bus stops. "There'll be nice, new covered walkways, fully integrated stops and covered waiting areas."

Kwiatkowski said the bus stops moving closer to the SkyTrain is a better alternative to the bus loop, which TransLink suggested to take off site.

"Buses get closer to the SkyTrain and it's much more intuitive than walking to the bus loop," he said. "There's no ill intent on moving this thing.... TransLink, they suggested it and they designed it."

Brentwood mall's first phase plans include turning the mall's parking lot in front of the SkyTrain entrance into a central plaza to connect transit passengers, pedestrians and cyclists along Lougheed Highway and Willingdon Avenue, with commercial retail, restaurant services, and office uses on site.