Public transit is becoming a social justice issue within British Columbia’s growing suburbs, especially those home to Kwantlen Polytechnic University campuses, where thousands of students commute through transit.
It’s important to understand what social issues within public transit look like. These issues include affordability, the frequency of transportation in some areas compared to others, how close access to transportation is for people, and who can access most of the transportation services.
For KPU students, transiting gets a little difficult because our campuses are in different municipalities.
Cities need to move away from the monocentric city model and transform them into polycentric systems to provide fast and accessible transportation for people living in suburban cities. This could also accommodate many KPU students who need to attend campuses away from their municipalities.
TransLink has two bus routes running close to the Langley campus, which connect with Clayton Heights, Langley Centre, and Walnut Grove, but there isn’t a RapidBus near KPU Langley that stops through KPU Surrey. And KPU Tech has the 342 Newton Exchange and 370 Willowbrook buses, but they run in 30-minute intervals.
To get from KPU Tech to KPU Langley, it usually takes 15 stops. From KPU Tech to KPU Surrey, the 342 has 29 stops before arriving at Newton Exchange. From there, students will need to take the 319 to Scott Road Station, which has six stops before arriving at the KPU Surrey campus. Then there is the KPU Richmond campus that only has the 301 connecting to KPU Surrey.
The upcoming R6 Scott Road RapidBus is a good start, but more rapid systems that could connect all campuses would be beneficial for students and people who work at KPU.
This is a transit justice issue because there are so many steps students need to take to access the place where they get an education. Transportation services also need to realize how important it is to invest in cities outside Vancouver because a lot of folks are leaving Vancouver and moving into suburbs and areas like Surrey, which is becoming the province’s largest growing city.
It isn’t fair for students who live far away from KPU’s campuses to buy cars because it is their only means of accessible and fast transportation. This is unsustainable as it forces students to spend extra money on parking, gas, and insurance apart from paying thousands of dollars for their education.
There are the Kwantlen Student Association Intercampus Shuttle services that help fill the gaps. The downside with the shuttles is that their running schedule stops at 6:00 pm and varies depending on the day of the week. Unfortunately, students who stay on campus past 6:00 pm need to find other alternatives to commute after class.
KPU Surrey is also experiencing a further issue regarding the 319 bus stop going westbound to Scott Road. The bus stop is too close to the road, and people often have to breathe the air pollutants from the cars.
Then going eastbound to Newton Exchange, the bus shelter isn’t big enough for commuters when it rains. The shelter also isn’t next to the pole where the bus stops, and most times, people don’t even go inside the bus shelter because the bus doesn’t directly stop there.
Under TransLink’s top ten busiest bus routes, Newton has the Scott Road SkyTrain Station between Newton Exchange placing fourth, and the R1 route between Newton Exchange to Guildford Mall placing ninth.
In 2020, Newton’s population was 153,650 and it is projected to grow to 187,620 over the next 30 years, according to the City of Surrey’s census data.
Newton Exchange has become a popular transit hub for folks who commute to White Rock, Delta, Richmond, Cloverdale, and Langley. For such a transit-focused area, Newton could really benefit from the implementation of a rail transit system that can connect to all of these places.
The idea of the now-cancelled $1.6 billion Surrey-Newton-Guildford light-rail project could have been the beginning of rail systems across the region, and in the area around Newton Exchange, and a fast way for KPU students to commute through campuses.
The project was replaced with a $3.95 billion much-needed SkyTrain extension to Langley. But it is still questionable if the City of Surrey and TransLink will think back to the LRT idea, considering that Newton Exchange has been proven to be a transit hub connected to surrounding municipalities.
If more forms of transportations are added, that would make our city transit focused and discard the need to own vehicles, which would save students tons of money.
In the future, we can hope that transit services can consider different methods of transportation that can cater to university students. The R6 will not solve all of KPU’s transit challenges, but it is a start to the idea of faster transit.