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Translink Buzzer Blog

Category: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

TransLink implements Safe Operating Action Plan

Enhanced cleaning, restored service, masks recommended on public transit

In order to support British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink is introducing new and enhanced measures to make transit service safer and keep it available for those who need it.

Over the next several weeks, customers will notice changes at transit stations and on vehicles designed to improve sanitization, create space where possible, and enhance personal safety.

TransLink’s initiatives, many of which have been taken since the beginning of the pandemic, are now part of a Safe Operating Action Plan. This plan will be implemented in phases to meet the needs of our customers as B.C.’s economy re-starts. Below are the steps customers will see, as well as the actions we are asking them to take.

What we are doing to make transit safer:

Increased Cleaning and Sanitizing

  • Deploying cleaning “pit crews” to disinfect SkyTrain cars at high traffic stations.
  • Increasing bus and SeaBus disinfecting sprays to twice per week in addition to daily cleaning schedules.
  • Maintaining daily cleaning and disinfecting schedules on SkyTrain and West Coast Express cars, as well as HandyDART vehicles.

Managing Physical Space

  • Limiting fare gate access at busy stations to help manage the number of customers on SkyTrain.
  • Installing two-metre spaced decals at some bus stops and station entranceways to help guide customers.

Adding Service to Create More Space

  • Restoring service across all modes to add more capacity, including to routes which were previously reduced. Service will be operating at nearly the same levels as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Monitoring passenger loads in order to deploy additional service at times and on routes where physical distancing is more difficult.

What customers can do to enhance their own personal safety and that of fellow passengers:

  • Stay off the system if you are sick.
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering while waiting or on-board our vehicles.
  • Travel outside of peak times when possible. This is especially recommended for vulnerable people.
  • Allow more time for your commute.

Quotes

Kevin Desmond, CEO, TransLink –
“Thousands of essential workers have relied on transit every day during the pandemic and many of our customers will return over the coming weeks and months. We’re committed to keep our system running and making it widely available to the people of Metro Vancouver as they go back to work, to school, and to moving around the region. Our Safe Operating Action Plan is meant to make transit as safe as possible and asks our customers to help out by keeping themselves and their fellow passengers safer.”

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer –
“Public Health and WorkSafeBC are working with transit agencies to ensure all reasonable steps are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, however, it’s clear that maintaining a safe physical distance may not be possible in every situation. We recommend all passengers consider wearing a face covering while using public transit, especially during those instances where physical distancing may not be possible. We also ask the public to be patient during this challenging transition period and we are grateful to British Columbia’s transit agencies for doing everything possible to protect the public during these changing times.”

Province and TransLink to ensure transit service in place to support B.C.’s Restart Plan

TransLink to suspend planned service reductions, rescind employee layoffs

People in Metro Vancouver can rest assured that they will be able to get back to work as the Province of B.C. and TransLink announced their commitment to ensure transit service is available as British Columbians safely restart the province and its economy in the coming weeks and months.

The Province and TransLink are working on a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts that TransLink, like many transit agencies across the country, has incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the progress in these discussions, TransLink and its operating companies will suspend the service reductions planned to begin on May 18 and rescind layoff notices issued to approximately 1,500 employees. The Province and TransLink will also continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems.

With the release of British Columbia’s Restart Plan, TransLink will review all transit service levels to ensure it is balancing the need to help people get around the region, with the need to maintain and respect enhanced safety protocols. Further service and safety-related announcements will be made in due course.

Quotes

“As we begin to restore the economy through BC’s Restart Plan, services like TransLink will be key to British Columbia’s transition and recovery success.  We remain committed to working with and supporting TransLink through this difficult time and into recovery to find solutions that will benefit Metro Vancouver and British Columbia as a whole and continue to call on the federal government to join us in this support.”
Selina Robinson, Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing

“Today’s commitment by the Province of B.C. to help TransLink keep transit service running on Day 1 of the BC Restart Plan is an important first step towards returning TransLink to financial sustainability in the long-term. I look forward to working with Minister Robinson and her team through the summer to address the pandemic’s impacts on TransLink finances so that TransLink is equipped to help rebuild our region’s sustainable, innovative economy.”
Jonathan X. Coté, Chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation

“This is another important step forward for re-starting British Columbia and Metro Vancouver’s economy. The transit service provided by TransLink is essential to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in our region. We will be ready to provide safe, reliable transit service as people return to work. We are proud to be partnering with the Province of B.C. to ensure transit service is there as the economy recovers.”
Kevin Desmond, TransLink CEO

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Bus fare collection set to resume June 1

Bus operator barrier with a temporary plexiglass extension installed.

Upgrades and installation of barriers allow for safe fare collection

Beginning June 1, front-door boarding and fare collection will resume on all buses. Temporary plexiglass extension barriers are being added to conventional buses currently equipped with traditional operator barriers. Vinyl barriers will be installed on the remainder of the fleet.

“We’ve managed to find an innovative solution which ensures the safety of our bus operators, while also allowing for safe fare collection,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’ve already started to procure materials and install the barriers on our fleet, with an expectation that this process will be complete by June.”

Given current ridership levels, it is estimated that approximately $2 million per month will be collected by resuming fare collection on the bus system. TransLink is losing around $75 million each month due to several factors, including significant reductions in ridership and fuel tax revenue.

Timing for service reductions

TransLink is also advising customers that previously announced bus route suspensions and frequency reductions will come into effect on May 18th. This will see 41 routes suspended, in addition to the 18 routes which were suspended in April, and six suspended in early May. Frequency will be reduced on most remaining bus routes.

We ask customers to only travel on transit during peak hours if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers. For more information, visit translink.ca/servicechanges.

Vinyl barrier for buses.

 

These are the new peak hours and busy times on transit

Thank you to all the essential workers – and to everyone for doing your part, staying home, and staying safe.

With limited service available at this time, we’re asking all of our customers to use transit for essential trips only – especially at peaks hours and busy times – so space remains available for those who need it most.

What are peak hours? These are the times during the day when there’s the most demand and when transit’s the busiest.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these hours have changed as when and where we travel, and who is travelling on transit has changed. Please keep these new peak hours and busy times in mind when planning your transit trip. If you need to take transit, please limit your travel to outside these hours so space is available for essential workers.

  • Weekday peak periods:
    • Morning: 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.
    • Afternoon: 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday peak periods:
    • Morning: 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m.
    • Afternoon: 2 p.m. to 6:45 p.m.
  • Sunday peak periods:
    • Morning: 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.
    • Afternoon: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Need help with Trip Planning? Our Customer Information team is available to help:

  • Twitter: Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
  • Phone at 604.953.3333: seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Live Chat: Monday to Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m., and on Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Working together to get through the pandemic

When you think of someone working in a hospital, what Sofie does probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Sofie is a hospital switchboard worker – she forwards calls between doctors and runs the hospital codes for entry, among other things. In her words, “We are sort of at the heart [of the hospital], where we are kind of like the phone operator.”

Fortunately for her, the pandemic caused by COVID-19 hasn’t affected Sofie’s work too much since her role is administrative, but she feels its reverberations.

“We have to take a lot more precautions and in dealing with patients and the public, it’s changed a little bit of our routines,…but we are not feeling the effects as much as nurses and doctors are,” says Sofie, alluding to the heroic frontline workers.

Sofie’s routine at work isn’t the only part of her life impacted by the pandemic. As someone who depends on transit to get to work, some of the service cuts we had to make on the heels of losing $75 million a month have made some parts of Sofie’s commute a little more challenging. Despite these limitations, TransLink is still moving over 75,000 people daily while we continue to best navigate the challenges of these trying times.

“It’s getting harder to get to and from work on certain shifts,” explains Sofie. “And with limited services… [buses are] not as predictable in terms of when they are going to be running… so that makes it harder.”

Fortunately, when Sofie does get on her bus, the travel time to the hospitals she works at are not longer than they were before.

As for what she can control, Sofie is doing her best to take safety precautions when she takes transit. “I try to limit in person contact as much as possible and try to keep a little extra distance,” she says, “but as long as I am dependent on taking transit there is only so much I can do.”

Sofie understands that while there is only so much that can be done to tackle the unique challenges of a pandemic, as long as everyone comes together, we can get through it. “I think it’s important to stress that everyone’s doing their part and especially healthcare workers,” says Sofie. “They are taking extra precautions, they’re doing the absolute, utmost [they can].”

“They’re risking their family’s lives and their own lives every single day and fortunately for me I’m not in that sort of front line in the same way. I’m protected, sort of, by working in an office, but the public has done a lot to take extra precautions, especially TransLink – it is appreciated.”

In order to help promote physical distancing and allow riders the opportunity to take proper safety precautions, TransLink limited seats on the bus and introduced rear-door boarding, measures which Sofie thinks are effective.

“In general, people are a little bit more careful; they’re not taking the seats closest to each other anymore, which is obviously a huge help,” explains Sofie. “And limiting the number of passengers per bus… I think it’s effective.”

Due to reduced revenue caused by COVID-19, TransLink has had to make some difficult decisions resulting in temporary staff layoffs, voluntary cuts in pay and reduction to service. We are actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions. Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Sofie’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Do you have a story like Sofie’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

Latest ridership numbers: your questions on service reductions answered

Over the last several days, we received a high volume of questions about TransLink’s recent cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system.

Reducing our services was a difficult decision. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83%, while still providing transit services for +75,000 customers, many of which are essential workers. We continue working with our stakeholders and government authorities on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink so that we can continue delivering our services and reintroduce our suspended services in the future.

In this post, we’ve pulled together additional numbers and details to address some of your questions.

 

Reductions on SkyTrain, Canada Line, WCE

Our most recent measures were introduced in the context of significant decrease in ridership across all transit modes over the last several weeks. Here is the latest data on the weekday boardings before and after the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions.

Expo-Millennium Line

82% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 359,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 65,000

Canada Line

86% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March (pre-COVID-19): 143,000

Early April (after COVID-19): 20,000

SeaBus

90% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 17,300

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 1,800

 West Coast Express

94% reduction in Weekday Boardings

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10,600

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 620

 

Bus Routes

TransLink’s priority was to maintain the routes that serve health facilities and hospitals, while making sure that the suspended routes have alternative service. For the 18 route suspensions that were introduced on Friday April 24:

  • Over 75% of these customers would have alternate routes in the same corridor (customers using the 15, 50, 480 and R3).
  • Of the remaining 25% (~800 people on weekdays), over half are on the 68 (UBC shuttle). Many of these people are in walkable distance to another bus route.
  • Almost all of the other routes that will be temporarily cancelled have less than 50 boardings per weekday.

The ridership on our bus routes have decreased significantly, according to the latest published data.

Here are the details for some of our bus routes (boardings are rounded to nearest 10):

 

50 – Waterfront Station/False Creek South

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,650

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 790

Alternative routes: Use other downtown routes (e.g. 4, 7, 23), 84, or alternate modes

 

 32 – Dunbar/Downtown Express

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 490

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use routes 2 and 7

 

 143 – SFU/Burquitlam Station

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 3,390

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use Millennium Line and 145

 

R3 – Lougheed Hwy RapidBus Coquitlam Central Stn/Haney Pl

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 1,820

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 600

Alternative routes: Use 701

 

N15 – Cambie/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 20

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Close proximity to N10 or use alternate modes of transportation

 

N17 – UBC/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 50

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 10

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N22 – Macdonald/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 10

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 0

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

 

N24 – Lynn Valley/Downtown NightBus

Early March Weekday Boardings (pre-COVID-19): 40

Early April Weekday Boardings (after COVID-19): 20

Alternative routes: Use alternate modes of transportation

Transit triathlon: a multi-modal commute from Langley to Vancouver

Arthur Orsini makes the daily “triathlon” by bus, SkyTrain and bike to get from Walnut Grove in Langley to the Fairview neighbourhood in Vancouver where he works.

As Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority, we’re here to support you whether you’re taking transit, walking, cycling or even driving.

When it comes to cycling, our program is vast and varied. It covers everything from the BC Parkway and Central Valley Greenway multi-use paths, cost-sharing with municipalities to fund improvements, to end-of-trip facilities like bike parkades and lockers. At our Bike Parkades, you can lock up your bike for $1 a day (fees capped at $8 a month) and connect with SkyTrain or bus to continue the rest of your journey.

Arthur Orsini is an essential worker. He’s also a multi-modal commuter — that means he uses more than one kind of transportation to get to where he needs to go. In his words, he does a daily “triathlon” to get from his home in Langley’s Walnut Grove to work in Vancouver’s Fairview neighbourhood.

That’s a very fun and interesting way to describe your commute! What do you mean by “triathlon?” 

I take the 555 Port Mann Express bus to Lougheed Town Centre Station, then the SkyTrain to VCC–Clark Station where I pickup my bike from a locker that I rent $10 a month, and then I bike the last portion to work. Each segment is about 20 minutes.

Where are you headed to? 

I work as a Healthy Transportation Lead at Vancouver Coastal Health. My role is to deliver projects, events and facilities that support our staff in more healthy, active and sustainable commuting.

Interesting stuff! We’re asking customers to only travel on transit if necessary and outside of peak hours, so space remains available for our essential service workers. What would it mean if you weren’t able to get to work? 

My job is to help nurses, doctors and other hospital and clinic staff navigate the changes in their commuting options. The pandemic has brought on a lot of new stresses for health-care workers, so we are trying to make the commute safer and more comfortable. Although I usually try to steer our staff towards cycling, transit and carpooling; at present I’m working on parking solutions and finding vehicles for staff dealing with a lengthy or crowded commute.

TransLink’s losing more than $75 million a month, but we remain committed to providing transit services for essential workers. We are continuing to push for funding from senior levels of government. In your words, why is it important transit keeps running?

I rely on transit and I know that many of my colleagues do too. We depend on SkyTrains and buses to get us to work on time, and home again after a long work shift.

Now let’s talk about you. What’s one little known fact about yourself that most of your colleagues or acquaintances wouldn’t know?

I’ve never owned a car.

What are you looking forward to the most when the COVID-19 pandemic is over?

I’m not going to miss my role as the recipient of a long list of emails from staff describing parking tickets, frustrations and over-crowded parkades.

If you could offer words of hope, what would it be?

My bike ride is the best part of my commute, so I’d encourage more people to get on a bike …even if just for the duration of a coffee break. And, with Mobi bike share offering VCH staff free 90-day Essential Worker memberships, a bit of cycling is even easier.

One final question. I hear people wondering about this a lot, how does one cycle in Raincouver without getting wet? 

Rain is really no barrier to cycling. I would rather just ride in my ‘ordinary clothes’ and find them insufficient about three or four times a year rather than fully outfit myself with typhoon gear. A rain jacket and gloves is usually enough for most cloudy/rainy days.

Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Arthur’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Do you have a story like Arthur’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

Delivering essential banking services

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, our lifestyles have drastically changed, as we found new ways to readjust to the new reality. We attend birthdays, family reunions and work meetings with a click of the video call button. Store pickups and home deliveries have become a new norm for shopping for household necessities.

Essential workers, who are behind all the services and infrastructures, play a crucial role in our communities, enabling us to carry on with our daily lives. Sandy Yang is one of them. She works at the local branch of a bank based in Richmond and ensures that day-to-day banking activities of her customers happen without major interruptions.

Sandy is new to Vancouver. In fact, she has moved to Canada from Taiwan in December and started her job just a few weeks before the global pandemic was announced. When asked about her impression of the last few weeks, she said “I just got to Canada, so I haven’t been around long enough to compare. But it’s unusual to see how everything is closed and everyone is staying at home during the pandemic.”

For Sandy, her work duties as a bank accountant require her to be physically present in the office. “Even though most of our services are carried out online, we have security measures in place, so we need to be at work to access all the information and make sure that our customers are served,” she explained.

Sandy works three days a week in the office with her supervisor. She doesn’t hold a driver license in Canada and has been commuting by public transport. These days she uses West Coast Express and SkyTrain to get to her work .

Social life is something Sandy misses the most about her life before the pandemic. She told us that catching up with all her friends will be the very first thing she’ll do when restrictions will be lifted. She would also like to see her family, who are now living in Taiwan.

Sandy shared a note of appreciation to everyone working on the front line:

“Thank you to all the front-line workers for being there and fighting for us. I have a friend who is currently working at the St Paul Hospital. We all know it’s very intense to work under this circumstance but again thank you!”

Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Sandy’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline and essential workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Do you have a story like Sandy’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

Nurse thankful for the community support and transit

Laura is a nurse who depends on transit for all aspects of her life, including work.

There is no playbook for the COVID-19 pandemic — something none of us have experienced in our lifetime. In many respects, we’re all making it up as we go, adapting as each curve ball comes our way. But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We’re social beings. We value our connections. In a curious way, although we’re apart, we’re closer than ever.

This rings true for nurse Laura Mills, who says the biggest change COVID-19 hasn’t been in the work, but how it’s brought the healthcare and wider communities together.

“As health care teams we have such a sense of unity and purpose, and a renewed drive for delivering the best care we can for our patients,” she says. “And bringing community together as a whole; we are in such awe and so grateful for how our community has gathered together to offer support and kindness in so many ways.”

Every evening at 7 p.m. since the the middle of March, we’ve made our way to outside — or if you’re on transit, you would have heard an announcement — to make some noise for our essential workers. Our West Coast Express trains are sounding their horns at 7 p.m. as it pulls into Pitt Meadow Stations to drop off essential workers like Cara, returning home after a day on the front lines.

Laura’s heard the appreciation loud and clear: “It made me cry. Like that was really significant for us, so thank you for that.”

She, however, is quick to point out she cannot thank the respiratory therapists enough because they are the true front lines of this pandemic. Respiratory therapists initiate and manage life support for people in intensive care units and emergency departments.

As a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, Laura works with premature and critically ill infants.

“These infants are at a particularly high risk of getting sick, especially with respiratory illnesses, as they have underdeveloped lungs and almost no immune system,” she explains. “As nurses, 12 hours at a time, we help these tiny, vulnerable babies to heal and grow, and to help families learn how to care for their tiny new babies and walk through the fearful and unknown times of having a critically ill child.”

To get to her 12-hour shifts, which are either 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., four days a week, Laura relies on transit, which she says is usually accommodating.

Most days, she’s able to make the hour-and-20-minute commute by taking the bus and SkyTrain, but when she’s scheduled to start at 7 a.m. on weekends, she depends on the NightBus. That’s because on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the first train from Waterfront Station isn’t until 6:44 a.m. and 7:44 a.m., so SkyTrain crews have a larger overnight window to complete critical maintenance to keep the system running for years to come.

With TransLink losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83 per cent, we made the extremely difficult decision earlier this week to reduce service in order to preserve our transit system. We remain focused on maintaining as much service as possible for the over 75,000 people using the system each weekday.

We’re prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities to ensure essential workers, like Laura, can continue to serve our community — all while actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions.

Her weekend 7 a.m. shifts have been affected by minor service modifications to the NightBus and her manager has been accommodating in changing her schedule around. It’s clear she’d be in a pickle if there’s more widespread changes to transit schedules.

“I have to take transit — not just to commute to work — but for everything,” says Laura, who sold her car as a cost-saving measure when she moved to Vancouver. “I don’t really know what would happen to me with that. I maybe have to stay in a hotel, which would be very expensive or I just wouldn’t be able to get to work at all.”

That’s why Laura’s so thankful for transit staff and other essential workers, and TransLink for operating essential transit service.

“I can’t say it enough, thank you to everyone at TransLink and the public transportation sector for the sacrifices you’ve made for supporting our communities. And for continuing to provide service for hospital access — for that, I am so, so thankful.”

Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Laura’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Do you have a story like Laura’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

Being a frontline worker means keeping groceries on shelves

Due to reduced revenue caused by COVID-19, TransLink has had to make some difficult decisions resulting in temporary staff layoffs, voluntary cuts in pay and reduction to service. We are actively working with senior government to secure more funding to reverse these decisions. Public transit is an essential service, and we know +75 000 people are still reliant on transit, including frontline workers. Dave’s story is another in our series about the people who are keeping our region operating during this unprecedented time. We at TransLink applaud all that frontline workers are doing, and we’re working hard to get them to their important work – Together all the way.

Dave Carbiero is used to working hard. He once worked two full-time jobs before he and his wife had their child. But with COVID-19, his life has become a challenge.

Waking up shortly after 5 a.m. to make sure he gets to work on time as an Assistant Produce Manager at a Vancouver grocery store, Dave takes two different buses and the SkyTrain five or six days a week. He’s had to start his day earlier since we started reducing service and number of seats on the bus due to COVID-19 over a month ago. Despite the longer commute, he says he needs transit to keep running to make everything work for his family.

“Don’t shut down transit [more] because it’s going to be a chain reaction. If the workers like us who provide supplies for the home, can’t come to work, where will people go to buy their food?”

Going home from work on the bus, Dave needs to pick up his child from the babysitter. His wife works nights as a care worker, so his family’s days are very busy with little time to spend together.

Added to this is the need to keep up with food deliveries so his customers have food to buy. “It’s a bit scary because a few people have left the job. We’re actually understaffed, so we need to work more and multitask… Every time I get home, I’m as tired as a dog, but I still have to take my child out for a walk or a bike ride around the neighbourhood because he has too much energy.”

Dave has worked at his grocery store since 2015 and enjoys helping his community. He’s not unlike Mallory, Ava or Cara who are also frontline workers putting in time so we have the food, childcare and the medical attention we need these days.

Do you have a story like Dave’s or know someone doing good these days? If so, we’d love to hear from you via our social channels or email. Together we can get through the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. Telling stories of the effects on each other’s lives can help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

TransLink implements cost saving measures

Provincial support to restore service by September

Lincoln Station along the Millennium Line
TransLink today announced a series of cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system along with a commitment from the Province to ensure near-regular service can be restored by September. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83% while still providing transit services for essential workers. This rate of financial loss is not sustainable.

Given the significant financial challenges facing the regional transportation authority, TransLink and its operating companies today announced the following cost-saving measures:

  • Implement further suspension of transit services on Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, beginning this week.
  • Issue temporary layoff notices to 1,492 employees. These employees work in various positions at TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.
  • Reduce senior executive salaries and Board remuneration by 10%.
  • Reduce organizational costs and program expenditures, including:
    • Deferral of the 2020 Major Road Network operations, maintenance and rehabilitation program funding to municipalities.
    • Deferral of 2020 service expansions.
  • Spend cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations through to the end of 2020.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly,” says TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “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. 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.”

TransLink and the Province of BC have been working closely to ensure that funding is available to allow TransLink to reverse layoffs and return to near-regular operations in time for back-to-school in September. TransLink and the Province are also working on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink in order to ensure the transportation authority can continue delivering transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond.

TransLink’s revenue has declined since mid-March due to reduced ridership levels, falling fuel tax revenue, and fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, TransLink has:

  • Reduced Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express services.
  • Reduced the seating capacity on buses to promote physical distancing.
  • Introduced rear-door only boarding and suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators.
  • Introduced widespread and intensive cleaning and sanitization measures on bus, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
  • Deferred the scheduled July 1, 2020 fare increase.

Details of Service Changes

TransLink is focused on maintaining as much service as possible for the approximately 75,000 people using the system each weekday. Many of these are essential and front-line workers. However, considering the current financial trajectory, service reductions across all modes will begin this week on routes with low ridership. Capacity will continue to be focused on the routes and times with continued high demand.

Service reductions by mode are:

SkyTrain Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), Expo and Millennium Line capacity will be further reduced.
    • Expo Line capacity will be reduced by 20% during peak hours. During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Millennium Line capacity will be reduced by 15% during peak hours. During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Canada Line capacity has been reduced by 18% during peak hours.

Bus Service

  • Beginning Friday (April 24), 18 bus routes will be suspended.
    • Suspended routes: 15, 32, 50, 68, 105, 131, 132, 143, 222, 480, 414, R3.
      • Most of these routes have other transit as alternatives
    • Suspended NightBus routes: N8, N15, N17, N22, N24, N35.
  • Beginning in early May, we expect another 47 routes will be suspended, and frequency reduced on many remaining routes.
    • Expected route suspensions: 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, 179.
    • Precise timing for these suspensions and reductions will be released in due course.
  • TransLink is prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities.
  • Routes selected for suspension either duplicate other routes or are in low ridership areas.
  • The number of people TransLink can move on buses was reduced to around 30% of normal levels due to physical distancing measures. Once all planned service reductions are implemented, the number of people TransLink can move will decrease further, to around 20% of normal levels.

SeaBus Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), SeaBus will end service earlier.
    • The last SeaBus sailing of the day will happen at 7:30 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay and 7:45 p.m. from Waterfront.
  • SeaBus will continue sailings every 30-minutes.

West Coast Express Service

  • Beginning 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 suspended.

Essential Services and Physical Distancing

With ridership down over 80% across the system, analysis suggests physical distancing will still be possible for most trips. TransLink has limited seating on buses and operators will not make any stops once capacity is reached. On SkyTrain, customers are asked to try a different car or wait for the next train if they feel there is not enough space to remain physically distant from other passengers.

Customers are also asked to only travel on transit if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers.

Checking in on our HandyDART customers

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

A HandyDART operator helps a customer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged many of us to adapt to new ways of working in order to continue serving our customers. This includes the Access Transit Customer Care team at Coast Mountain Bus Company, the TransLink subsidiary that looks after bus service in the region.

“At a team brainstorm, we tried to think outside the box and see if there were any ways we could go above and beyond for our customers during these difficult times,” explains Albert Lau, manager at Access Transit Customer Care. His team is the main point of contact for client services such as HandyDART and HandyCard registration and administering the TaxiSaver program.

That’s when the idea of wellness checks for Access Transit customers was suggested.

“Our services are for people with permanent or temporary disabilities. A lot of our clients have compromised immune systems. As we are moving through this pandemic, a lot of their services and programs are closing for safety measures. Some have support systems, some do not. Some may have people to talk to, some may not,” shares YF, a customer care representative at Access Transit.

YF suggests that doing a check-in with our customers and providing an ear to listen would reassure them that we’re are all in this together: “We want to make sure that everyone feels supported in this uneasy time.”

The team started the wellness checks with their oldest customers first.

After asking customers how they’re doing, and if they have any questions or concerns, our representatives provide them with information on the resources and services available to them. This includes the 2-1-1 phone line (a connection to government and community-based health and social services), food banks, BC Centre for Disease Control, Health Canada, the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool and non-medical lines. They also let their customers know about the cleaning measures on HandyDART vehicles to help alleviate concerns about travelling, if they absolutely must.

Albert encourages his team to go off script if necessary.

“If we can help someone out, let’s help them out. If they need us to do something or look something up on the computer for them, let’s do it. There have been a few challenging calls as well. We’ve talked to a few people whose partners are in care homes or isolation and they are unable to see them, or they’re just lonely. They want someone to talk to and we’re happy to provide that for them.”

In addition to managing their regular workload, the team has made over 600 wellness check call attempts and spoken to over 400 people so far. They’re now working through the 90-99 age group.

Some customers have been surprised to receive a call, and overall, everyone has been overwhelmingly grateful to hear from our representatives. For the team, hearing how many family members have stepped up to be there for their loved ones has been particularly inspiring.

“Our staff are truly amazing and empathetic people and they’re making some really great connections on these phone calls,” concludes Albert.

Well done to the Access Transit Customer Care team for going the extra mile to help our customers!

Physical distancing decals and signs: where to find them

There are around 75,000 – 100,000 of our customers in Metro Vancouver who still rely on public transit everyday. During this uncertain time, we want to make sure that we can get you to your essential destinations safely, whether it’s your work, pharmacy, grocery store, or home.

If you were using public transit in the past few weeks, you might have spotted TransLink’s outdoor distancing decals, yellow circles with the footprints, indicating the distance of 2m, at various bus loops and exchanges, SkyTrain stations, embarkation areas of the SeaBus and West Coast Express. These decals provide our customers with the guidance on how far they should stand from other passengers while boarding our transit vehicles and have so far been installed at over 40 locations.

In addition, we have also introduced multilingual pole signs (English, Punjabi, simplified Chinese) with health and safety tips at over 40 bus loops and stations ads and have distributed over 5000 Physical Distancing Pins to our frontline employees across the enterprise to wear as a friendly reminder for everyone to keep two metres apart.

We all could use a bit of fun these days! To sprinkle some engagement into campaign, we invited our followers and transit friends, including Washington Metro and Los Angeles Metro, to participate in our Instagram challenge and share what two metres means for them in GIFs. We were delighted to receive some great great examples! Did you know that two metres equals to roughly one Chewbacca, three 3BB8s, 20 tacos placed end to end, and 31 Venti ice coffees from Starbucks?

Please let us know about your experience with TransLink’s decals and signs so far by leaving a comment. You can also send us your feedback via thebuzzer@translink.ca.

West Coast Express attendant misses her passengers

It’s been a few weeks since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and physical distancing measures were implemented to slow the virus’s spread.

This has changed the transit experience for both our customers and staff with total boardings across the system down by 83 per cent.

For West Coast Express Station Attendant Fiona Trumper, that means she’s not seeing all her passengers on a regular basis anymore.

“All of the station attendants and the conductors are really missing our passengers because we do really have a good relationship with them,” says Fiona, “so I think that’s the hardest part for all of us, is we’re used to seeing the same people every day and we’re actually missing our passengers.”

The West Coast Express is our commuter rail service that operates during peak morning and evening periods between downtown Vancouver and Mission.

For those who take it, it’s a uniquely community-focussed service that’s always filled with joyful chatter between long-time staff and passengers — everyone knows one another. Physical distancing means Fiona hasn’t been able to talk to her passengers as much.

It has also meant a game of musical chairs onboard the trains for passengers. Everyone has their self-assigned seat onboard the West Coast Express train because they get on and off at the same station, on same train and same time everyday. However, passengers have had to switch it up to ensure there’s adequate physical distancing between themselves and others.

“Everybody on our trains – it’s really weird, they like their own space, their own spots; they have an actual seat that they will sit in every day and I think that they’re having to change a little,” says Fiona. “It’s quite funny to see people using different parts of the train now.”

Thankfully, Fiona’s husband is a bus operator with Coast Mountain Bus Company, so she has someone to share her day with and can understand the unique challenges of being on transit’s frontlines during this time.

It also helps to be someone that prefers to stay home.

“I’ll go into work in the morning to my four hours and then come back and I’m a real homebody, so it’s not really affected me in a huge way, being home after work,” says Fiona.

Although a self-professed homebody, Fiona admits she also enjoys the outdoors and does miss things like hiking and skiing, but she finds comfort in still being able to walk her dog.

Google Doodle thanks public transportation workers

The April 14 "doodle" on Google thanks public transportation workers.

The April 14 “doodle” on Google thanks public transportation workers.

If you’ve logged on to Google today, April 14, you will have noticed there’s a new “doodle” today thanking public transportation workers! It shows the letter “g” in Google tossing a heart to the letter “e” that’s operating the bus, who catches it, before exploding into more hearts.

As an organization, we too would like to thank all of our employees for keeping essential workers moving and making essential trips possible. While ridership has declined dramatically as people have transitioned to working from home, there’s still more than 75,000 people who are still depending on transit. This includes daycare workers like Ava Jade, restaurant workers like Ryu Fukazawa and nurses like Cara Muller.

The doodle part of their “thank you coronavirus helpers” series that launched on April 6 to honour essential frontline workers, including healthcare workers, first responders and the many people keeping services like sanitation, food service, public transit, schools, and more up and running.

Google explains, “Doodles are the fun, surprising and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists.”