British Columbia

TransLink cuts 'difficult to swallow,' mayor says, amid concern over transit access for health-care workers

Sweeping cuts to TransLink bus routes due to the COVID-19 pandemic are raising concerns in communities that have been the most affected and fears about the impact on care workers who rely on transit.

Service suspension hit Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows hardest

TransLink says ridership has dropped by more than 80 per cent since mid-March. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sweeping cuts to TransLink bus routes due to the COVID-19 pandemic are raising concerns in communities that have been the most affected and fears about the impact on care workers who rely on transit.

On Monday, the transit authority for Metro Vancouver announced nearly 1,500 staff were going to be laid off and 18 bus routes will be suspended as of Friday, including six NightBus routes. TransLink previously said it was losing $75 million every month due to a loss in revenue resulting from the pandemic.

The bus services being suspended are in areas of lower ridership, TransLink said, and include seven out of 10 routes in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.

Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden said the cuts announced were "difficult to swallow all around for every community in Metro Vancouver."

He said he's worried about essential care workers and people who need to get to necessary appointments and wants to hear from people if they are experiencing hardship because of the cuts.

The cuts come only a few months after more bus routes were launched for Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, and there's concern whether those services will return.

"There is always a risk that when you turn things down to the point of a certain level that you may not be able to easily bring them back," said Morden.

He said Metro Vancouver's mayors are appealing to government partners, particularly in the federal government, that they consider the region's transit services as an essential service and provide further relief funding.

Concerns for health-care workers

The Hospital Employees' Union (HEU), which represents more than 50,000 workers, is also calling on federal and provincial governments to put emergency measures in place to support public transit during the pandemic.

Estimates show one in five health care workers depend on public transit, the HEU said.

TransLink said service to hospitals and other health facilities is being prioritized amid the cuts.

But Jennifer Whiteside, the union's secretary-business manager, said she's concerned for workers who will have to spend longer on transit to get to their jobs and for those who may have to walk for longer periods in the dark to access transit.

"I'm especially concerned for workers who are forced to commute long distances because of high housing costs and who may be working second jobs to support their families. These service cuts will be a huge source of stress for these workers," Whiteside said.

On Monday, TransLink said it expects to cut another 47 routes in early May, with reduced frequency on most remaining routes.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

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