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New West floats concept of free shuttle between Uptown, Downtown

A little tidbit in New Westminster’s draft Master Transportation Plan of a Downtown-Uptown shuttle has piqued community interest.

But it still has a hill to climb as steep as the slope it would traverse before it becomes reality.

The draft plan went before council last week and is being shared at open houses this week. Among its many suggestions, the plan said a free shuttle between the two busy areas could benefit both and make getting around New West easier.

“It could work. We now have the density in both places,” said city transportation engineer Jerry Behl.

So far, though, it’s just a concept.

“At the moment they’re sort of ideas we want people to think about,” said Behl.

The plan suggested any shuttle would likely have to come with support from local business associations and TransLink. None have been approached.

“[The open houses are] a good sort of venue to float these ideas to see if they have some appetite for these,” said Behl. “I’d be pleased if there is.”

TransLink already offers bus service between the two areas on Sixth Street.

That’s why they need to be consulted, said Behl. “We don’t want to interfere with how they work.”

But many residents may be deterred from paying $5.50 for a round trip or from walking the steep grade. That’s why Downtown New Westminster Business Improvement Association executive director Kendra Johnston thinks the shuttle is an idea worth exploring.

“Initially it feels it would be a positive thing, but my board hasn’t been able to give me feedback on that,” said Johnston.

“I live in Downtown New West and I walk that hill all the time but a lot of people don’t or can’t.”

Like Johnston, Uptown Business Association president Bart Slotman hasn’t had a chance to talk it over with his members. He said it isn’t a new idea, but his initial reaction is positive.

“That’s great, let’s have a discussion.”

Slotman supports New West residents being able to move about their city easily.

For example, he said, congestion caused by the Pattullo Bridge often inhibits Sapperton residents from shopping Downtown or Uptown, and vice versa.

“It’s really important to connect neighbourhoods within a city,” said Slotman.

Senior Services Society executive director Kara-Leigh Bloch said a shuttle would be beneficial for seniors, especially since so many live in Uptown but frequently need to go Downtown.

“It sounds like a fabulous idea. In terms of who, how and what I don’t know,” said Bloch.

“It would be something we wouldn’t be able to fund but we would be in support of.”

An open house was scheduled for Century House on Tuesday afternoon. Another will be held at the Sapperton Pensioners Hall, 318 Keary St., on Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m.

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