“I’m just so thankful that I get to, first, help out my community as much as I can, but also for my family, I get to continue to come to work.”
Those are the words of Bryan Stebbings, a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company. He’s one of myriad dedicated transit staff on the frontlines ensuring the region can keep moving during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bryan operates the 7 Nanaimo Stn / Dunbar and 9 Boundary / Commercial–Broadway / Granville / Alma / UBC routes. The 9 route travels along Broadway, passing by the Fairview neighbourhood that’s home to Vancouver General Hospital and a cluster of healthcare institutions, so it’s no surprise many of his customers are healthcare workers.
He’s embracing this important role transporting these frontline workers and others such as grocery clerks, janitors and other transit staff who depend on transit to get to work. There’s also those who need transit for essential travel to pick up groceries and medication.
“Well, it makes you feel good,” says Bryan, who has been an operator for nearly four years. “There’s a purpose behind my work. It makes you want to get up, go out there, serve my community and get these people to the places they need to be to help us out.”
Transit staff like Bryan are also among the people on the frontlines and we’ve taken steps to protect them.
Buses have temporarily moved to rear-door boarding for most passengers, while customers who need mobility assistance can still use the front doors if needed. The red line, which customers have to stay behind, has been moved further back from its usual spot to allow greater physical distancing.
“Loading from the back door has really helped us out,” says Bryan. “I think that was so important to implement, and then obviously getting that six feet from the red line being moved back another few feet so the general public doesn’t really enter your space too much.”
The bus company has also accelerated the installation of operator protection barriers, which was already underway after a successful two-year pilot in 2017. In addition to daily cleaning schedules, we’re spraying all buses with a disinfectant weekly. This week, we began limiting seating on buses to allow for extra space between customers.
While Bryan embraces helping the community out during this time, it’s being reciprocated by the community. SPARKMOUTH, a local tonic and sparkling water producer, reached out to TransLink to donate their beverage to transit staff.
“We at SPARKMOUTH want to sincerely call out and thank all of you at TransLink that are not able to stay at home because you are out supporting essential services for the rest of us,” says Jackie Fox, vice president of sales and marketing at the company, in a letter to transit staff.
“We recognize that you, on the frontlines, are keeping this region moving, and we appreciate and salute the work you do to help all of us during this challenging time.”
The sparkling water beverages will be distributed to transit staff like Bryan in the coming days.
Special thanks to Josh Neufeld Photography.