A busy bus stop on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is out of service.

Since the last week of August, TransLink has stopped service at a stop at East Hastings Street, east of Carrall Street. TransLink says the stop was serviced by five routes and picked up nearly 700 passengers daily.

Jill Drews, a representative for TransLink, says buses have stopped servicing the stop because of safety concerns.

"We've had our bus operators tell us they are narrowly missing pedestrians and their belongings in the bus lane and really, really close to the bus lane. The last thing we want is to hit one of these people, cause an accident involving another vehicle," she said.

Drews also noted there's often a street market that is set up on the sidewalk that has added to pedestrian traffic and near-misses.

No prior warning

Randy Barnetson, the pastor at the Vancouver Foursquare Church, says there was no prior notice the bus stop would be removed. 

"Nobody's happy about this bus stop getting shut down," he said. "We weren't told about it and no other options were given."

By removing this bus stop, the next nearest stop is nearly 600 metres away.

Karen Ward, a longtime advocate and artist based on the Downtown Eastside, says she understands the road is busy with activity but people need the bus.

"People who need to go from where they live to their community centre or health service really need to be able to use the bus, because it's not always safe for them or accessible for them to use any other method," she said.

Ward noted many residents who are seniors or have mobility issues find it especially difficult to trek up the street — which is inclined.

She says there are unique factors to the Downtown Eastside — like trying to avoid certain places and people — that make it difficult to get up and down the street.

"On the actual block itself, a lot of people use the bus, because they are trying to avoid physical violence," she said.

Simple solution

Ward says there's a relatively simple solution.

There is another bus stop about a block west on East Hastings that is currently only used for the express B-Line bus to Simon Fraser University. Ward says the old routes can be integrated into this stop.

"It doesn't require any sort of infrastructure development," she explained.

SFU bus

The SFU express bus stop is a short distance away. Ward says the closed routes could be integrated into that stop. (David Horemans/CBC)

She says other measures like pedestrian calming and traffic control could also help address safety concerns.

"There's ways to deal with that that don't involve inconveniencing people and putting them in danger and treating people that are poor in a way that would not be done anywhere else in the city," she said.

Ward echoed this thought saying there are plenty of areas in the city that still have stops despite having similar pedestrian density.

"Granville, by the PNE, Broadway and Commercial — there's a lot of people there. But any other part of the city, they'll take steps to fix things. But here, the first thing they'll do is 'ah, shut it down'," he said.

TransLink working on a solution

TransLink says it understands customers need a stop in the area.

"We understand that this is not an ideal situation, but, at the end of the day, we don't want to cause any harm to the public, to our customers, to the public or our operators," Drews said.

"That being said, we're working really hard to find an alternative stop and we hope to have something to share soon."