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TransLink ridership below half, numbers flat since August: CEO

FILE: A TransLink bus in downtown Vancouver. (CityNews Vancouver)

Transit ridership remains low in Metro Vancouver during the second wave of COVID-19

TransLink CEO says numbers have been flat since August, but they have been in other places around the world too

Kevin Desmond says most people are complying with the mandatory mask policy and enforcement isn't an issue

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Transit ridership numbers across Metro Vancouver are still well below half of what they used to be before the pandemic started, according to the CEO of TransLink.

Kevin Desmond said Tuesday the numbers have been flat since August.

“Current ridership is approximately 42-43 per cent of pre-COVID levels across the system,” he said. “It’s rebounded a little bit faster on bus than the other modes, but it’s about 42-43 per cent.”

He said the low numbers aren’t an exception in comparison to other regions.

“What we’ve seen worldwide, we’ve received information from 25 to 30 transit industries over Asia, North America, South America and Europe — the same phenomenon,” Desmond said.

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“Clearly, we’re very concerned about the spike [in COVID-19 cases]. It’s hard to really predict what will happen with our ridership. Candidly, I don’t expect the ridership to change a lot. Largely, until there’s a vaccine and people start returning to work — and we improve the confidence in the transit system — ridership is going to be depressed.”

He also said most people have been complying with Translink’s mandatory mask policy, which has been in place since the summer.

Given the compliance, Desmond said enforcement of the policy hasn’t been a major concern.

TransLink launches pilot project

Desmond was speaking at the launch of a $90,000 pilot project to protect travellers by installing copper surfaces in high-touch zones on two buses and two SkyTrain cars. Those will be tested twice weekly to determine its effectiveness.

Research has shown copper helps destroy up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria and viruses within four hours, according to a TransLink release.

“We’re proud to be the first transit agency in North America to pilot this industry-leading technology and I look forward to working closely with our project partners,” Desmond said. “We’ve been carefully examining new ways to ensure transit is one of the safest public spaces throughout the pandemic. The risk of COVID-19 transmission on transit remains extremely low and this initiative will only bolster our comprehensive cleaning protocols which are already in place. Any findings from this pilot project will be shared with our fellow transit agency colleagues and other industries which may be able to use this emerging technology.”