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Metro Vancouver drivers warned about possible impacts from transit strike as job action set to escalate

Last Updated Nov 22, 2019 at 7:05 am PST

Traffic outside Commercial-Broadway SkyTrain Station. (iStock Photo)
Summary

Drivers, too, are expected to feel the impacts of the transit strike in Metro Vancouver, urban planner says

About 400,000 people move through the transit system every day; they'll need to find another way to get around

Unifor workers are preparing to go on a full-out strike on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday of next week

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As transit users get ready for a possible three-day SeaBus and bus shutdown around Metro Vancouver, drivers are being warned to get ready, too.

According to an urban planner, as tens of thousands of more people look to carpooling, carsharing, and taking cabs next week, some drivers already on the roads are in for an unpleasant change.

Even more congestion is expected on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, as Unifor workers prepare to go on a full-out strike that will see SeaBus and bus service essentially disappear.

Andy Yan, director of The City Program at Simon Fraser University, says about 400,000 thousand people move through the transit system around the Metro Vancouver region everyday.

“Eighty people on an average-sized bus — on one bus. Now, what happens if we say that translates into cars, and now, instead of one bus with 80 people, you perhaps have 40 cars,” Yan says. “Good luck with the bus-pocalypse.”

The 400,000 figure is about “two Richmonds,” he explains.

“On any given day, so you can imagine, how do two Richmonds, that typically use transit to get around … how they’re going to get around, because I think that feeds into some profound challenges for those who won’t necessarily be able to carpool or get around in terms of walking or biking.”

He wonders how seniors and people with mobility limitations will get around in a full-scale strike, and believes that population is likely to be hit hard by job action.

Certain streets will be more congested than others, Yan adds, especially during peak times. He describes what could happen as something that will be an adjustment for everyone on the road, not just those who rely on public transportation to get around.

He does note, however, that “Metropolitan Vancouver is so different from what it was in 2001 to what it is in 2019,” and that there’s no way to determine what exactly the impact will be until the strike actually takes place.

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The looming strike involving bus and Seabus workers comes as SkyTrain workers voted in favour of a strike mandate on Thursday.

However, the union for SkyTrain workers is still negotiating next week, so service isn’t expected to be impacted just yet.

Yan foresees the strike pushing more people to carpooling to get around, and says it’ll be interesting to see the trends with things like carsharing amid the job action.

“And even within the, kind of, perhaps, our bike lanes,” he says.

Some people have already taken things into their own hands to mitigate the impacts of a possible shut down of the transit system. Students at SFU have already created a carsharing group, while at least one student at UBC has contemplated camping out on campus amid the three day strike.