SFU students, along with the rest of Metro Vancouver, will be able to weigh in on improving transit in an upcoming November referendum. Although it is unclear exactly how the issue will be framed, the referendum will mean an opportunity to vote to put more provincial funding into TransLink.
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), the Graduate Student Society (GSS), and Sustainable SFU have collaborated to bring a transit advocacy campaign to the SFU community. The campaign aims to make students aware of the upcoming referendum and to encourage them to be informed voters.
The campaign emphasizes the potential this vote has to improve the transit situation between SFU’s different campuses. Chardaye Bueckert, SFSS external relations officer, told The Peak that in the undergraduate survey for the past 10 years, transit has consistently been in the top 10 list of how to improve the university experience.
“Everybody has transit horror stories,” Bueckert said.
Julia Lane, coordinating and external relations officer for the GSS, and Bueckert both commented on how happy they were with the progress of the campaign. Lane said that they have had a lot of people show interest and get involved.
The two organizations advocated awareness at Clubs Days earlier this month as well as in Convocation Mall last Wednesday. Students could sign up to receive information and enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate. Students who showed interest will receive information catered specifically to them based on certain factors, such as whether or not they were registered to vote and how much they already knew about the referendum. There is also a survey online where students can access similar information.
“Everybody has transit horror stories.”
– Chardaye Bueckert, SFSS external relations officer
Bueckert mentioned how encouraging it was to see students she talked to “go from being frustrated when [asked] about their transit experience to feeling like they can actually do something to change it.” Lane stressed the importance of “opening people up to what could be.” She continued, “We get so stuck in what is, and we get so defeated by it.”
The organizations have been in discussion with TransLink and the provincial government. Bueckert explained that TransLink reported that they have “no funding to do any of the ideas and any of the initiatives that [were] brought to them.” According to her, this referendum is the only medium for increasing funding for transit.
The projects that these student organizations have presented include an increase in frequency for the 143 bus route to include weekend service, improvements to the 135 route, and the implementation of the Burnaby Mountain Gondola — affectionately referred to by SFU President Andrew Petter as “the skybus.” They would also like to see an extra stop added to the 135 route, as well as the implementation of a more efficient express bus between Burnaby campus and downtown.
A business case presented by TransLink and corporate management company Price Waterhouse Cooper predicted that transit demand in 2021 will be so high that it will necessitate a 145 bus leaving Production Way – University Station every 57 seconds. “We don’t have the facilities for that to occur,” said Bueckert.
If the “skybus” were implemented, replacing the 145 bus, there would be a gondola car leaving every two minutes; this trip would take approximately six minutes, a significant departure from the 10-15 minute travel time one can expect on the bus.
For Bueckert, this advocacy is a means to effect change as the considerable voting pool of students at SFU could have a real influence in this referendum. In a broader sense, she wants the campaign to “empower students to feel like they have the ability to actually improve things.”