TransLink CEO says this week's planned bus shutdown will have "devastating impact"

Nov 25 2019, 12:03 pm

A three-day complete bus service shutdown planned for this week would have a “devastating impact on the people of Metro Vancouver,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond on Monday morning.

Speaking to reporters at Waterfront Station, Desmond said both the employer and the union need to return to the bargaining table “without any pre-conditions.”

This, he said, “is the essence of collective bargaining, and it can’t be done if you’re not at the table.”

And with the system shutdown looming every closer, Desmond said “we all know this is going to be few days. I sincerely wish this wasn’t happening.”

The CEO said he “urges the union not to punish the transit users of the region; there is still time to end this.”

Coast Mountain Bus Company, he said, “wants to get a deal done, and they would like to get a deal done as quickly as possible. They’ve repeatedly asked the union to come back to the bargaining table. They’ve repeatedly asked the union to submit to impartial third-party mediation.”

Describing it as “fair and reasonable,” Desmond said there’s an offer on the table right now which gives the drivers guaranteed rest times, and higher wages, among other things.

One way or another, when this is all over, said Desmond, “there’s going to be a settlement. So I ask why do we have to inconvenience and disrupt the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in the region, when fair, good-faith bargaining can ultimately help strike a deal?”

Now is the time to bargain — “not to issue ultimatums,” he said. “That’s why I’m asking the union once again, today, to put this unnecessary strike aside, agree to come back to the table with impartial third-party mediations — which is one of the best ways to resolve differences at the table. Deals get done at the table.”

Alternative travel options

During the press conference, Desmond also painted a picture of how an estimated 350,000 weekday commuters would be affected by the job action set to begin this Wednesday, if no deal is reached before then.

Desmond said that out of the 350,000 bus commuters, 165,000 of those use the bus to get to work. And out of those 165,000, “60% do not have a driver’s licence or own a car,” and “25% of bus passengers are from households with $40K or less household income.” Adding that about 76,000 UBC and SFU students regularly commute by bus to get to the Point Grey and Burnaby Mountain campuses.

In anticipation of this week’s job action, Desmond said TransLink is getting ready by working with partners around the region to help those who rely on bus and SeaBus services each weekday.

These initiatives, he noted, “won’t replace bus and SeaBus service, but we are doing what we can, providing options so commuters can reach their destination or connect to other modes, which are unaffected by job action.”

During the planned shutdown, he continued, a number of public transportation options will still be available and in service. These include:

  • SkyTrain (Expo and Millennium Lines)
  • Canada Line
  • West Coast Express
  • HandyDART
  • West Vancouver Blue Bus (Routes 214, 215, 227 250, 251, 252, 253, 254, 255, 256, 258, 259, 262)
  • Community Shuttle service on Bowen Island and Langley (Routes 280, 281, 282, 560, 561, 562, 563, 564, 379, 372)

Desmond also said that “off-peak” SkyTrain service will be increased, and there will be “higher levels of SkyTrain attendants and police at stations to assist with customer flow. As well, the number of pick-up/drop-off locations will be increased – including designated unused bus stops near SkyTrain stations to facilitate pick-up/drop-off for customers

For transit pass holders who do not use any public transit during the three-day strike,  a pro-rated Stored Value credit will be automatically applied to their Compass accounts.

Other options he said, include:

  • Carpooling
    • GobyRIDE and LiftTango carpooling platforms increasing service
    • UBC vanpool pilot project
    • Designated carpooling parking spots at SkyTrain Park and Rides
  • Carsharing
    • Evo and Car2Go are expanding their drop-off and pick-up boundaries
  • Cycling
    • Expanded bike parking at stations by introducing complimentary bike valets at key stations to be operated by BEST (7 am to 6 pm)
    • Bicycles will be allowed on the SkyTrain all day in the last car of each train during peak travel hours
    • More Mobi bikes at and near SkyTrain stations
    • Mobi bike share with staff on hand to respond to the volume of bikes in high volume locations.

“We know the union’s job action will make getting to work, school, and other important places difficult,” said Desmond. “It’s our job to keep the region moving so we reached out to our partners to help give some relief.”