Cancelled Downtown Eastside bus stop leaves handicapped residents struggling with commutes

TransLink cites safety concerns but people who work in the neighbourhood ask if the transportation authority would have found a better solution for a wealthier community

    1 of 3 2 of 3

      Kevin Yake lives in supportive housing near the intersection of East Hastings and Carrall streets. He’s getting older and has trouble walking long distances, a challenge that is made worse by an injury that has had him on crutches for a month now.

      So, even though it’s less than four blocks to where he works, at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) on Hastings Street just east of Gore Avenue, Yake takes the bus.

      In a telephone interview, he described each morning walking the short distance from his building to the nearest bus stop, located on the south side of the 00 block of East Hastings just east of Carrall Street.

      Then one morning last week (August 30), Yake arrived there to find the bus stop’s sign was gone. Confirming his worry a few minutes later, one bus after another passed him by.

      Yake told the Straight he had to walk about a block-and-a-half to the next closest stop, at West Hastings and Abbott streets. Not far, he acknowledges, but not easy on crutches.

      “There was no notice, no nothing,” Yake said, “So I asked the bus driver and he says, ‘It’s gone for good.’ And that’s all he knew.”

      Since TransLink cancelled a bus stop near the intersection of East Hastings and Carrall Streets, the next closest stops are west of Abbott and east of Main, more than three blocks apart from one another.
      Google Maps

      TransLink confirmed the stop—previously number 50933—was cancelled the week Yake noticed it missing.

      “There’s a make-shift market set up on the sidewalk there,” Jill Drew, a spokesperson for the organization, wrote in an email. “Bus operators raised concerns as it has been spilling into the area right at the curb and into the street at times.”

      The block of East Hastings in question grew crowded with street vendors beginning in November 2015. That month, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department made a sustained effort to clear the north side of the block of street vendors who for years had congregated there. As a result, the south side of the same block became increasingly crowded.

      In a subsequent telephone interview, Drew clarified that TransLink is still working on a solution for people who regularly used the stop its cancelled.

      “CMBC [Coast Mountain Bus Company] and the city are working and negotiating and looking,” she said. “But as far as I know, they have not been able to come to an agreement about where another stop could go around there.”

      Drew added: “And if we can figure out how to make it safer, we’ll put the stop back in.”

      Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer told the Straight she didn’t know enough about the situation to comment, but she said the bus stop’s cancellation was previously brought to her attention and that she’s looking into it.

      The south side of the 00 block of East Hastings grew increasingly crowded after the city pushed vendors off the north side of the same street.
      Travis Lupick

      The next two closest stops are located just west of Abbott Street and just east of Main Street. The distance between them is unusually long for a major transit route through the downtown core. It’s a little over three blocks or, according to Google Maps, about 600 metres.

      Yake said the missing bus stop has become a hot topic of conversation in the Downtown Eastside. He explained it’s a location that’s literally surrounded by supportive-housing buildings that provide homes for a lot of people with mobility issues.

      “A lot of people used to get on the bus there with wheelchairs and walkers,” Yake said. “So a lot of people are pretty unhappy about this.”

      On the phone with Yake was another VANDU member who identified himself as Martin. He asked if TransLink would have simply removed the stop without a replacement or advance notice if it were located in another part of the city.

      “When I asked him [a bus driver] why, he said it’s because it’s just too busy there,” Martin told the Straight. But he said it doesn’t make any sense to him why they closed it. It’s no different than any other busy stop downtown.”

      Yake said the same. “I was thinking they took it out because of the homeless and the poor,” he said.