A Williams Lake senior is protesting the recent removal of a bench from inside the bus shelter on Seventh Avenue North across from Save-On-Foods.
“If I say nothing, pretty soon there’ll be no benches in any shelters,” Donna Smith told the Tribune Wednesday. “The removal of this one last week really surprised me and I’m wondering are they taking anymore away?”
Smith is disabled to the point where she cannot stand for long periods of time, especially if she is carrying 20 pounds of groceries, she explained.
“The nearest bus shelter with a bench is at Safeway now, which is three blocks away. Removing the bench is causing hardship to the people it’s supposed to serve, especially the (disabled) and parents with small children.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said the decision to remove the bench was made by staff.
The location of shelters and benches are made by BC Transit, but the City makes decisions on whether to remove the shelters and the benches, Cobb explained.
Last year the bus shelter near Boitanio Park was removed for safety reasons and since then city staff have been monitoring the shelter by Save-On-Foods, said Leah Hartley, the city’s manager of development services Thursday.
It was removed in order to continue the City’s effort to ensure the bus shelter is safe for bus transit passengers, Hartley explained.
“We observed that shelter for the last year, since it was moved from Boitanio Park, to ensure it was offering a clean, safe environment for transit users and had observed that the bench was often used by people who were not transit users,” she said. “Once the bench was filled up, transit passengers could not even get under the roof.”
Now that the bench has been removed, the hope is that transit users will have a roofed over shelter, Hartley added, noting staff will continue to monitor the spot to ensure it is safe.
Smith, however, said she has been riding the bus every day for more than 13 years and while she agrees there are some issues, she doesn’t think they warrant removing the shelter.
“In all that time riding the bus I have never seen what I consider a truly dangerous situation,” she said. “I can honestly say I have never felt in danger.”
Smith plans to voice her concerns at a city council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 19.
She is also contacting Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett to ask if she will forward her concerns to Premier John Horgan.
In 2016, Smith told council she was disappointed with the removal of the shelter from Boitanio Park, arguing it was not going to solve the problems in the park.
She said this week she still believes that is the case.