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More Metro Vancouver transit vehicles need air conditioning, say unions

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021 at 11:04 am PDT

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

Union representing Metro Vancouver bus drivers wants to see more air-conditioned vehicles

TransLink says all available buses, SkyTains with A/C are being put into service to help passengers amid heatwave

SkyTrain union says all new cars coming into service have A/C, but many are still without

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Metro Vancouver bus drivers say more of their vehicles need air conditioning as the ongoing heatwave across the region puts pressure on all sectors to keep customers and employees cool.

It’s been even more vital for buses to be on time, so as to not leave passengers waiting for a ride in skyrocketing heat.

Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents bus drivers and other transit workers, says members are doing the best they can — but he stresses more of the vehicles need A/C.

“Apparently it’s taking time to get the buses, but that’s not our problem, that’s a TransLink or Coast Mountain issue,” he said. “The trolley fleet, none of them are A/C buses.”

Mann says he’s never seen this kind of weather in his time on the Lower Mainland.

“It’s really extreme,” he told NEWS 1130. “During the last week, we had a meeting with the upper management, especially on the weekend, to have maximum A/C buses out. I think it went very well, we received very positive feedback. And what we’re doing, as a union, we’re putting out water bottles for our members. Our property reps, the managers at the local level, we have authorized them to buy water bottles.”

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TransLink says it’s readjusting its fleet to ensure all available buses that are equipped with A/C are out on the system.

“This includes using our Rapid Buses on non-Rapid Bus routes. Our Rapid Buses are fully air conditioned,” explained Tina Lovegreen, who speaks for the transit company.

Lovegreen notes 60 per cent of TransLink buses have air conditioning. However, Mann says more are needed, especially if this heatwave is a sign of things to come.

“Every year there’s a change in temperature and I think we need to prepare ourselves. Moving on, we should have all our buses air conditioned,” he said. “It’s really hard.”

Meanwhile, more SkyTrain passengers may notice a blast of cooler air. Tony Rebelo, president of CUPE 7000, the SkyTrain workers’ union, says more air-conditioned cars are being put on the tracks.

He says all workers are ensuring they stay hydrated and cool while on the job, and some work is being deferred until cooler days arrive.

“I know the employer is trying to run as many of the air-conditioned trains out on the system for our passengers, and making sure that our travelling public is as cool as possible,” Robelo said, with Lovegreen confirming this.

Related video: How workers in Metro Vancouver beat Monday’s heat

Robelo adds if you’re on an air-conditioned SkyTrain car, make sure all the windows are closed.

“Tons of times people tend to open those train windows and they can let back in all of the hot air,” he said.

SkyTrain attendants are also out to ensure traffic runs smoothly, he adds.

Rebelo estimates 65 per cent of SkyTrain cars have air conditioning, but notes all new cars coming in are equipped.

“I had some conversations with our employer … and what they’re trying to do is keep as many, if not all, air-conditioned vehicles out on the system to make sure there’s comfort for our passengers. I know there’s been extra staff brought in to make sure those trains can continuously be on the system and not in our maintenance shop,” he explained.