West Vancouverite pushing for TransLink to reinstate express bus to UBC

A UBC student and her dad have started a petition to bring the 258 Express bus back. The bus stopped during the pandemic – and TransLink says it didn’t have enough riders to justify bringing it back.

A West Vancouver man has started a petition calling for TransLink to bring back its express bus from the North Shore to the University of British Columbia (UBC), which was suspended in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Theodore Malapanis tells CityNews his daughter Assia’s commute to UBC has become much longer as a result, and the family has even thought about buying a car for her — something they’d rather not do.

“You’ve got the expensive parking at UBC, and I’ve worked it out to be about $1,100 a year for that, and then you’ve got the insurance, which, for a teenager is astronomical itself, and gas costs, it almost amounts to the same in tuition,” Malapanis said.

Assia Malapanis says her current bus schedule has a major effect on her student life.

“It is cutting into my study time, as I am taking a full course load. I’m not used to the university structure so developing a system to study is important to me,” she explained. “It’s very stressful, I don’t get to relax on the bus and by the end of the day I’m just exhausted.”

Due to universities around the province pivoting to online learning during much of 2020, TransLink suspended the 258 express bus service in April of that year due to low ridership. The transit provider said at the time ridership was down almost 90 per cent compared with months before.

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Malapanis says Assia’s commute each morning to get to class has gone from about 40 minutes to an hour and a half.

“I reached out to a new Mayor Mike Sager and he’s right behind it. So that’s fantastic. And I think we have the support of the local community, and I think eventually Coast Mountain [Bus Company] are going to have to listen to the demand here,” he said.

As of Monday morning, Malapanis’ petition on change.org has almost 900 signatures of the hoped 1,000.

“It’s wonderful to see that the community is getting right behind this one. I think if we could get TransLink now to open up some sort of meaningful discussion where they could accommodate… there’s gotta be a balance post-pandemic. So, hopefully, they can see the reasoning behind it and not keep these kids cut off on the North Shore.”

“According to Translink, the trip provided by the 258 can be replicated through connecting services with comparable travel times. Translink states that ‘customers will be able to continue to travel to UBC on a variety of trips throughout the same time period, often within 10-12 min difference of travel time.’ This time estimate is based on the assumption that the busses run perfectly on time, as well as no variation in bus arrival times due to traffic,” Malapanis wrote on the petition.

“Oftentimes students miss the second bus by mere seconds or are unable to ride connecting buses as they are full. Some students have shared that it can take up to 1.5 hours to get to campus without the 258.

“This is extremely frustrating for North Shore students who have relied on this bus for years. We need public pushback.”

In a statement from a TransLink spokesperson, the transit authority says the route was one of the “least used routes on the North Shore” in 2019.

“The current service from West Vancouver to UBC is within roughly six to 12 minutes of travel time compared to the service previously provided by Route 258. Routes 250 and 44 are convenient and frequent options for customers and requires only one transfer between West Vancouver and UBC. TransLink has increased service on Route 44 to provide more options for customers making the transfer from Route 250.”

“The challenge with express services like Route 258 is that they are mostly used by customers in only one direction while ridership is zero in the other direction. For example, buses on Route 258 would often carry passengers to or from UBC and then be empty for the return trip,” it said. “In 2019, Route 258 was one of the least used routes on the North Shore, serving only 90 customers on an average fall weekday.”

Regardless, Assia says she wants the bus line back in service.

“There is a housing crisis on campus, and after second year many students are going to have to live at home and this bus is needed more than ever. First-year residents have already been displaced and put in other housing accommodation, so this bus is very vital to our community,” she said.

For now, TransLink reiterates they can better serve passengers elsewhere.

“We can serve more passengers by reallocating that service onto other routes that have high ridership in both directions, like routes 44, 250, and 253.

With files from Martin MacMahon and Angela Bower

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