Business

Gloucester area badly underserved

Aldergrove business people and Langley Township officials met with TransLink officials to lobby for bus connections to Gloucester Industrial Estates to help persons without cars gain employment.  - submitted picture
Aldergrove business people and Langley Township officials met with TransLink officials to lobby for bus connections to Gloucester Industrial Estates to help persons without cars gain employment.
— image credit: submitted picture

When EV Logistics opened its second distribution centre in Gloucester Industrial Estates last year, it brought the company’s potential number of employees up to more than 700.

But with no public transit going in and out of the east Langley business park, it is difficult for the company to fill those positions, and frustrating for the people who would like to work in Gloucester but don’t have their own cars.

“We are one of the larger employers in the park, and we want local people to get to this work environment,” said EV Logistics’s Dave Martin. “But a lot of them are first-time employees and they don’t have rides. We would be employing more people from Langley if we had transit.”

Last month, EV Logistics and dozens of representatives from other Gloucester companies joined members of Township council and officials from TransLink for a TransLink information session held at the General Motors headquarters. The meeting was called by Mayor Rick Green with the hope of getting bus service into the park, after discussing Gloucester’s transportation issues with the TransLink executive committee.

“There is a lot of anxiety, angst, and frustration,” said Green, noting that approximately 181 companies operate in Gloucester, supplying jobs for thousands of people, and making significant contributions to TransLink.

“I am a firm believer in taxpayers receiving value for money, but in the case of Gloucester, they are paying $1.4 million a year to TransLink and receiving no transportation services in return.”

“Youth in Aldergrove would give their eyeteeth for these job opportunities,” Green said, adding that he knows of a young man who skateboards to work, and others who cycle over the freeway overpass, “which is a little scary.”

Lori Andrews from PFG Glass Industries said one applicant walked for two hours to get to a job interview, but she was unable to offer him the position, due to his lack of transportation.

TransLink’s Frankie Kirby made a presentation outlining a number of options available to Gloucester businesses, including the use of privately-funded shuttles, the creation of an online portal to encourage ride-sharing, and the formation of a Transportation Management Association (TMA), a partnership that would work to address local transportation concerns.

While participants at the meeting agreed to look into the creation of a ride-sharing portal and the formation of a TMA in the near future (a TMA as a sub-committee of the Aldergrove Busines Association is already in the works), many of the options presented are not feasible for many employees and the employers believe buses are the only solution.

Chris Steeger and Jody Henderson of the Greater Vancouver Zoo said they have been trying to get public transit to their facility for years. Although it brings in 225,000 visitors each year, the Aldergrove attraction is one of the only zoos in North America that does not receive bus service.

Township Councillor Charlie Fox, said TransLink should take advantage of the bus loop in Aldergrove and look at connecting the school, Gloucester, the zoo, and the new park and ride being built at 202 Street near Highway 1 to connect students to after-school jobs and bring families without cars out to the zoo.

Bruce Heslop, chair of the new Aldergrove Business Association, agreed, saying bus riders can get out to Aldergrove but there is a “missing link” to Gloucester.

“How many people do you need to justify a bus?” Heslop asked. “You tell us the number and we’ll tell you how many buses we can fill.”

For Pascal Cohen, who recently opened up Recyc-Mattresses in Gloucester, getting his 12 employees to work means renting a van for several hundred dollars a month and driving into Walnut Grove to pick them up and drop them off near a bus stop. The van trip takes 20 minutes each way, and if Cohen is away, he must pay two taxis to collect his workers.

During the information session, Township Councillor Kim Richter asked what the capital and operating costs of running a bus service were.

TransLink’s Ken Hardie later stated it is difficult to estimate the full cost required to provide an effective service, as Gloucester’s employees live throughout Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley and many work shifts when the rest of the transit system isn’t available. He said the minimum direct cost for hourly all-day service from a regional bus stop to Gloucester, assuming it is provided by a minibus, would be approximately $350,000 per year.

TransLink said it requires a lot more information about ridership needs before it can consider running a bus into Gloucester. A survey will be conducted to gather the information and Green hopes that data from all affected companies can be consolidated and a follow-up meeting could be held in about six weeks.

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