Skip to content

'Damaging': Burnaby Heights businesses say proposed bus route will take away their parking

'How much more must Hastings Street merchants give up?' asked the local business association.

Businesses in Burnaby Heights are opposing a proposed bus route running through their neighbourhood.

The Heights Merchants Association, which represents about 360 businesses, said TransLink will “strip our parking” to make way for the Purple Line if it runs along Hastings Street.

“This will damage both our shopping environment as well as the ability of our businesses and our whole district to remain economically viable,” Isabel Kolic, the association’s president, told council Nov. 6.

Kolic said the parking on Hastings acts as a buffer between pedestrians and moving traffic.

“Nobody wants to stroll or shop with noisy moving vehicles speeding right next to you.”

Burnaby council recently endorsed the Purple Line, a Bus Rapid Transit, or BRT, line running from Park Royal in West Vancouver to Metrotown. BRT runs like a SkyTrain service in a dedicated lane with large stations. The buses have signal priority over other traffic.

originalpurplelinebusrapidtransitburnaby1
Map close-up showing the original Purple Line alignment for a bus rapid transit route from the North Shore to Metrotown along Hastings Street and Willingdon Avenue in Burnaby. By North Shore Connects

The original proposed Purple Line route ran east along Hastings Street for eight blocks (almost 1.5 kilometres), through Burnaby Heights, then south down Willingdon Avenue.

Last month, city staff proposed a modified route: south down Boundary Road, skipping the Burnaby stretch on Hastings.

Councillors received multiple letters opposing the modified route down Boundary, with writers suggesting council would be “unserious” about climate action if they “compromise the usefulness of the BRT route … to preserve a few free parking spaces for private vehicles.”

Councillors weren’t impressed with the modified route either, saying Boundary Road doesn’t have enough people or destinations to serve. Council asked TransLink to study both routes.

modifiedpurplelineburnabybusrapidtransit
The modified Purple Line route between Metrotown in Burnaby and Park Royal in West Vancouver, which skips the Burnaby stretch of Hastings Street. By City of Burnaby

But Kolic said there are “plenty of jobs” along Boundary now, noting there are film studios, light industrial uses and the Vancouver Police. She said while Boundary isn’t high density now, it has the potential to grow in the future.

Kolic said the merchants want the route to go south on Boundary, even as far as Kingsway. (The modified route currently moves east on First Avenue and Halifax Street, then south down Willingdon.)

Heights shoppers often do multiple errands on the same trip, Kolic said, generally “conducted by vehicle.”

She said the original route wouldn’t bring more customers to the Heights but would instead inconvenience shoppers and business owners, many of whom live in the Heights.

“We would not only be damaging businesses but eroding the social cohesion of our city,” Kolic said.

She said the merchants have “been losing millions per year” since the HOV lane came in almost 30 years ago.

“How much more must Hastings Street merchants give up?” Kolic asked. “And why aren’t the big box stores like Costco and Metrotown being asked to have their parking stripped for transportation infrastructure?”

She said Hastings only needs a dependable and frequent bus service with bus bulges.

Mayor Mike Hurley said council is listening.

“Rest assured that the Heights will be heard,” he said, adding a decision has not been made.

“It would be unlikely that TransLink would move forward without getting (Burnaby) council’s blessing,” Hurley said.

Coun. Pietro Calendino said the city has told TransLink the preference is to have a dedicated BRT lane using bus bulges and not using the parking lane.

Calendino said that’s “what the mayor will probably propose.”

busbulgetranslinkexample
An example of a bus bulge, in which the curb extends into the right lane and allows a bus to stop and load customers on the travel lane. By TransLink

lvanderdeen@burnabynow.com
twitter.com/lauvande