An unprecedented number of cuts are being made to TransLink service levels beginning this week as a significant measure to help the public transit authority weather through its fiscal crisis due to COVID-19.
The cuts are aimed at maintaining as many major services as possible for the approximately 75,000 people who still rely on public transit each weekday, including many essential and frontline workers.
- See also:
Cuts are being made to all modes of public transit, with TransLink struggling losing an average of $75 million per month due to the collapse in fare revenue and fuel and parking tax revenues.
Here is a full breakdown of this week’s service cuts:
All three SkyTrain lines will be affected by service cuts.
Starting on Wednesday, April 22, the Expo Line and Millennium Line capacities will be further reduced. The Expo Line will see its capacity cut by 20% during peak hours, and 20% to 40% during mid-days, early evenings, and weekends.
As well, the Millennium Line’s capacity will see a 15% cut during peak hours, and 20% to 40% over mid-days, early evenings, and weekends.
Both cuts to the Expo and Millennium lines are in addition to the 17% reduction made during peak hours and 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings made in March.
Furthermore, capacity on the Canada Line will be axed by 18% during peak hours.
Starting on Friday, April 24, a dozen bus routes will be temporarily cancelled, including two routes that were newly launched:
- 15 Cambie/Olympic Village Station
- 32 Dunbar/Downtown
- 50 Waterfront Station/False Creek South/Granville Island
- 68 UBC Exchange/Wesbrook Village
- 105 Uptown/New Westminster Station
- 131 Hastings/Kootenay Loop
- 132 Capitol Hill/Hastings
- 143 Burquitlam Station/SFU
- 222 Willingdon Express
- 480 UBC/Bridgeport Station
- 414 Richmond Oval/Bridgehouse Station
- R3 Lougheed Highway RapidBus
TransLink states most of these routes have other transit as alternatives. Both the No. 222 Willingdon Express and R3 Lougheed Highway RapidBus were newly launched this year.
By early May, another 47 routes will be temporarily cancelled: 251, 252, 262, 280, 281, 282, 370, 563, 564, 044, 170, 181, 182, 231, 241, 247, 258, 345, 352, 354, 391, 393, 394, 395, 416, 509, 602, 603, 604, 606, 608, 614, 616, 617, 618, 619, 719, 722, 733, 741, 744, 748, 749, 791, 042, 150, and 179. Many of the remaining routes later this spring will also see their frequencies cut.
The public transit authority says its bus service cuts are being prioritized to retain service to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
The routes selected for suspension either duplicate other routes or are in low-ridership areas.
Furthermore, in addition to the cuts to frequency, the physical distancing policy of 50% seat capacity and the ban on standing capacity has reduced bus service capacity to around just 30% of normal levels.
When all of the planned service reductions are implemented, the number of people that can move on TransLink’s bus systems will decrease further, to around 20% of normal levels.
Starting on Wednesday, April 22, SeaBus will end service earlier, with the last sailing of the day scheduled for 7:30 pm from Lonsdale Quay and 7:45 pm from Waterfront Station.
SeaBus will continue sailing frequencies of every 30 minutes throughout its daily operating hours.
West Coast Express
Beginning on Wednesday, April 22, West Coast Express trains One, Three, and Five will continue to operate on existing schedules, but will have fewer cars.
Trains Two and Four remain temporarily cancelled.
Ridership is down by 83% across the public transit system. On buses, not only is ridership down, but fare collection on buses has been suspended to allow some physical distancing between the driver and passengers.
To cut costs, approximately 1,500 staff with TransLink and its operating subsidiaries of Coast Mountain Bus Company (bus and SeaBus) and BC Rapid Transit Company (SkyTrain Expo and Millennium lines) will be temporarily laid off. Senior executives and board remuneration will be cut by 10%.
Through the end of the year, TransLink will use its cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations. It is working with the provincial government to ensure there is emergency operating funding to allow TransLink to reverse layoffs and return to near-regular operations in time for the new school year in September.
“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly. We’ve done our best to try and reduce costs through other means, but TransLink is losing $75 million per month, and we’re left with no other options,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.
“It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families. I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines.”
As well, the public transit and provincial government are in the process of working on a plan to address the long-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink to ensure transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond can continue.