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Making Phibbs less 'scary'

Six-month improvement study planned

A North Vancouver transit no-man's land may soon become a little more inviting if a tentative plan to refurbish the desolate Phibbs Exchange is adopted by the community.

TransLink and the District of North Vancouver have resolved to do a study of the bus loop near the north end of the Ironworker's Memorial Bridge with an eye to improving the experience for passengers. The isolated facility, which provides connections to and from North Vancouver neighbourhoods, Capilano University and Vancouver, is nowhere near stores or houses, and the lonely wait for a bus can be frightening, according to respondents to a survey conducted recently by the transit authority.

"Phibbs is a mess," said one respondent, according to TransLink, which made a presentation to district council on Monday night.

"Scary at night," said another.

"Safety at Phibbs is very important; add commercial establishments," said a third.

Jeff Busby, manager of project planning for TransLink, was at the meeting to present some of the possible options for making Phibbs better. It's an issue the district has been working on for nine years, Coun. Alan Nixon reminded council.

Improving the bus loop is one of the 13 projects TransLink has ranked as high priorities as part of the North Shore Area Transit Plan that the authority is developing.

Some of the options include extending the bus shelters to cover a much larger area, so passengers are better protected from rain and sun, said Busby. Adding retail near the loop, such as a kiosk selling coffee and food, would also make the area more inviting.

The transit authority will also look at ways to make the redesigned bus bay environmentally sustainable: Busby showed councillors an example of a transit exchange in Oregon that uses a rain garden to filter water.

TransLink looked at moving Phibbs Exchange to another location, but has decided to keep it where it is, said Busby.

"The (NSATP) plan has confirmed the Phibbs Exchange is in the right place," said Busby. "But it needs to be integrated with the community, and we need to improve customer experience."

"It's just such a cold and frightening place," said Mayor Richard Walton, adding he sometimes sees young international students waiting at Phibbs long after dark. "What would their parents think if they saw them there, waiting for a bus at 11 o'clock at night?"

Transit users will still have to wait some time before seeing improvements to the bus loop, however. TransLink and the District of North Vancouver will only start the six-month study after the NSATP is completed this summer.

Capital funding will also have to be found to complete the project, Busby stated in an email.