VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — TransLink is considering further service cuts while estimating revenue losses could now rise to $90-million a month because of COVID-19.
The cash-strapped transit authority previously estimated losses of $75-million a month due to an 83 per cent drop in ridership during the pandemic.
It is considering service cuts in addition to those announced earlier this week, when close to 1,500 workers were laid off and bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express routes were reduced.
TransLink said then that revenue losses were unsustainable and has now developed a number of hypothetical scenarios for the economy moving forward. It is forecasting a revenue shortfall between $570-million to $680-million in 2020.
The worst-case scenario modelled by TransLink would see a four-year depression after 18 months of physical distancing, with losses totalling $3.3 billion dollars.
“The extent to which we’ll have to reimagine the organization, and all aspects of the organization, that is beginning and will continue to be a focus,” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said.
Sobering financial projections from TransLink, which has come up with a number of hypothetical scenarios for the economy moving forward. Worst case scenario it’s looking at is a four year depression after 18 months of physical distancing — here what that would mean for TransLink: pic.twitter.com/0ZWDfFNwIb
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) April 23, 2020
In addition to reducing transit services, TransLink already announced it would reduce senior executive salaries and board member pay by 10 per cent and defer major road projects and service expansions, while spending reserves.
TransLink also said it was working with the province on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of the transit authority to ensure it can continue delivering services and key projects in the future.
The first service reductions included seating capacity restrictions on buses to promote physical distancing, as well as rear-door only boarding. It also suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators and increased cleaning measures on buses, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
Translink hasn’t collected bus fares since March 20.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, TransLink suspended service on 18 bus routes.
“Beginning in early May, we expect another 47 routes will be suspended, and frequency reduced on many remaining routes,” says a TransLink release.
TransLink adds it is prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities, while routes selected for suspension either duplicate others or are in low ridership areas.
Metro Vancouver Transit Police are keeping a close eye on TransLink’s financial struggles.
Transit police chief Dave Jones said a hiring freeze is in place, and is not ruling out the possibility of cuts – though he thinks it’s unlikely – to some of the force’s 183 officers.
No new officers for @TransitPolice.
Force will stay at 183 members due to hiring freeze, although number could eventually decrease (ie. retirements).
“It’s not so much cuts of what you currently have, but it’s eliminating your future growth.” – @ChiefDJones
— Tim James (@_TimJames) April 23, 2020
“The word never cannot exist. We’ve heard that type of discussion in other places,” he said.
How can @TransitPolice save money?
•No officer OT required for events (ie. Celebration of Light)
•Not using new training centre in Delta
•Cutting back on travel
“We’re looking to make sure that what we’re doing is essential and needed at this time.” – @ChiefDJones
— Tim James (@_TimJames) April 23, 2020
Union fights back
Unifor, the union representing transit operators in the Lower Mainland is challenging the 1,200 layoffs using the B.C. Labour Code.
The union argues Coast Mountain breached the code by not giving 60 days notice.
“Transit service rollbacks must be stopped,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President in a release. “The federal government needs to act fast. It is a mistake to weaken the public transit system while tens of thousands of essential workers rely on it every day.”
The union wants to see the layoffs rescinded or have the workers paid for the 60 days.
-With files from Tim James and Kathryn Tindale