The City of Nelson has moved its mall bus stop from Save-On-Foods to a location near the Walmart garden centre and riders are not happy.
“I feel like a second class citizen now,” one transit rider told the Star as he boarded the bus at the new location.
The city’s public works director, Colin Innes, said the move was for safety reasons.
“This summer we had an incident where an elderly man was struck by a bus,” he told the Star. “He was returning a cart, and he was clipped by the rear of the bus. We have had some close calls before that, and a history of bus drivers frustrated by navigating through there. There is too much traffic and general congestion.”
He said part of the safety problem is that the buses need to travel through the parking lot between the rows of cars. He also said that the decision is not final, and that the company that manages the mall, RioCan, will is one of the decision-makers.
The Star has been unable to contact anyone at RioCan willing to discuss this issue, despite considerable effort including phone calls to its Nelson, Calgary, and Toronto offices.
The map at left shows the new routes and the bus stop at the Wal-Mart garden centre. These routes allow the buses to avoid driving through the mall.
A number of letters to the editor recently have stressed the importance of having the bus stop adjacent to the grocery store because mall shoppers do their grocery shopping last, and then board the bus when they are loaded down.
“We are upset we were never told it was going to happen until after it happened,” said Karen Rymal, a frequent transit rider.“Where they have put the stop, we as passengers feel is very unsafe. It is at a three-way intersection and you get off the bus into a little patio thing with a tree. Then you have to step down at the gate by the garden centre, and often lately it has been icy and there are buggies there, and for people with walkers or mobility problems it is a hazard.”
Elaine Langlois, another frequent transit user, agrees. She says currently there is no sidewalk access to the bus stop at all, because of a structure outside the Walmart garden centre.
“I am very frustrated,” she said. “The bus stop is no safer than the one at Save-On. When it is cold and icy it is very dangerous by the garden centre at Walmart.”
Langlois said one problem is shopping carts: at the new location they must be moved on and off curbs, and at the new location there is no convenient place to return them, as there is at Save-On. She pointed out a number of abandoned shopping carts left on the pedestrian approach to the bus stop. She said this is not only a problem for people with mobility issues but for parents with strollers.
Langlois said in cold weather people would wait inside the entrance to Save-On for the bus until it arrived.
“Someone is not saying what is really going on,” Langlois said. “There were never issues before, and we all understand safety, but the drivers are saying they love this new stop because [they don’t have to drive through the mall]. Well I am sorry, but the buses are not created for the drivers, they are for the riders, and we should have number one consideration.”
When Langlois talked about how difficult it has been to get a response from city hall, her daughter, Eva Hernandez, said “If my mom drove a vehicle, the city would give her a free parking pass to park uptown, but since she rides public transit she can’t even get a phone call back from a city councillor.”
Rymal thinks everyone involved should be sitting down and talking about it.
“We understand the safety issue, but it would be really good if the manager of transit for the city, one or two of the bus drivers, the mall people, and some passengers could get together and have a meeting about this.”
In her letter to the Star, Langlois offered a solution. “The buses … could travel behind the mall, along in front of Walmart and on to Save-On Foods. Then they would turn down through the road between the parking spots and carry on past the Prestige. This should not be considered unsafe because semi trucks who unload at Save-On do this same route.”
Innes told the Star that running a bus route behind the mall is not an option because it would interfere with loading zones and the Greyhound bus and because of the impossible U-turn at Poplar St. He also said running the bus along the front of the mall (over the speed bumps) is not possible.