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TransLink considering further service cuts due to pandemic

Last Updated Apr 23, 2020 at 5:01 pm PST

FILE: A prospective seating arrangement for new SkyTrain cars, included in a TransLink survey seeking public feedback in January of 2019. (Courtesy TransLink)

TransLink is considering further service cuts due to the pandemic

The transit authority is estimating revenue losses could now rise to $90-million a month

TransLink is forecasting a revenue shortfall between $570-million to $680-million in 2020

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.

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.

“The word never cannot exist. We’ve heard that type of discussion in other places,” he said.

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