A Williams Lake senior left city hall smiling Tuesday after her request that a bench that was removed from a downtown bus shelter two weeks ago be put back in place was approved by city council.
Donna Mae Smith made a presentation to city council during its regular meeting.
“It is puzzling,” she said. “I’ve been told this was done for safety and last spring when they took Boitanio Park’s shelter away I was told it was the exact same issue. I can truthfully say I have ridden the bus practically every day for 13 years and I have never seen anything that would make me believe I was in physical danger.”
Smith confirmed she has witnessed people hanging out in the bus shelter, but noted she has never been refused a place to sit.
“A lot of times I would be offered a seat as soon as I walked across the street to the stop,” Smith said.
As she told the Tribune in a previous interview, Smith said removing benches only causes hardship to the people the transit system is supposed to be serving.
“We — all of us — the passengers, city council, the provincial government and the police — have to work together to come up with a solution that doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
She suggested the bench could be the type that has a bar down the middle so someone cannot comfortably sleep on it.
Coun. Scott Nelson said he agreed with having the benches at the Save-On-Foods and Boitanio Park bus stops put back.
“They are there to support people in our community and if we are encouraging people to use transit then we want to make it easy to use and accommodating,” Nelson said and thanked Smith for bringing forward her concerns.
Coun. Laurie Walters echoed Nelson in thanking Smith.
“You’ve touched base with the idea that taking the benches away doesn’t solve the problems and that city council is going to have to dig a bit deeper,” Walters told Smith. “You also reminded us that is causes the hardship to those that it’s supposed to help.”
Walters said she has a 90-year-old-father and a 96-year-old-mother who on occasion have used transit.
“There’s no way they could have stood there waiting for a bus to come.”
Mayor Walt Cobb said the bus shelters are still a concern, but council will have to deal with them from a different angle than removing them.
Council unanimously passed a motion recommending the bench be restored in the shelter at Save-on-Foods, and that the issue be referred to the General Governance Committee for further review to bring a recommendation back to council on the matter of public safety.
Smith told council the decision was more than she could have hoped for.
“Thank you,” she said.