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TransLink seeks emergency funding amid massive monthly losses

Last Updated Apr 14, 2020 at 12:10 pm PDT

Summary

TransLink is looking to the federal and provincial governments for help amid a decline in ridership and revenue

The transit authority has been forced to slash services and stop collecting fares on many routes due to COVID-19

TransLink has confirmed it's losing $75-million a month, and warns it 'will face cashflow issues within weeks'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – TransLink has confirmed it is losing $75-million a month, as was reported by NEWS 1130 on Monday.

The transit authority says it’s looking for relief from the federal and provincial governments to help offset losses due to a decrease in ridership, which has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Without emergency funding, TransLink warns transit users will see “unprecedented cuts” to services.

“We’re talking a lot more than the cuts that are currently happening right now,” Mayors’ Council Chair Jonathan Cote told NEWS 1130. “The TransLink board and Mayors’ Council will be looking at various options this week, but we could be looking at 30 to 40 per cent of the transit system disappearing in a month’s time.”

He said that would include “all aspects of the transit service” that Metro Vancouver relies on, adding the transit system “would not be recognizable.”

On Monday, sources told NEWS 1130 leadership was concerned about how long TransLink would be able to continue to offer the same level of service on major routes.

TransLink hasn’t collected bus fares since March 20 when it made the move to rear-door boarding only. Fares were also suspended on the HandyDART system during the pandemic, while reduction in services on SeaBus and West Coast Express were also brought in.

The transit authority says it’s operating revenue has been cut in half since about mid-March, and that “emergency funding is necessary to ensure a reasonable level of essential service can be maintained” while physical distancing measures are in place.

Cote said the Mayors’ Council and TransLink have been engaged with the governments for the past two weeks, but haven’t received any support.

Initial projections to get TransLink through the losses its incurred, he said, would total about $250-million in order to “maintain viable transit service in the Metro Vancouver region.”

He hopes to see recovery in the years to come, but noted TransLink is projecting losses in 2020 to hover around $600-million to 700-million.

“We’ve done the best we can to keep essential services operating for those workers who need it, to get to their workplaces, but we are losing $75 million per month and on our current trajectory, we will face cashflow issues within weeks,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond in a release. “It’s a dire situation which will force us to cancel entire routes and significantly reduce service levels on all transit modes, meaning far longer wait times and much more crowding for customers.”

Cote said essential workers would initially be impacted, as they are the ones predominantly using the transit system. However, he noted the impacts are expected to be felt well into the recovery phased.

“As the country, as the province is trying to move to recover from this health crisis, we’re not going to have a viable transit service to be able to help residents in the region get around,” Cote said.

The Mayors’ Council Chair said the COVID-19 pandemic will likely change a lot of aspects within our communities, but added we’ll have to “wait until the dust settles” to know just how far-reaching the impacts will be.

“Having said that, we still think that a viable transit service is going to be needed into the future, and we as society need to figure out how we are going to accomplish that,” Cote explained.

TransLink expects ridership will increase once the crisis is over, but slowly.

-With files from Kurtis Doering