Transit system may become 'unrecognizable' without financial support: TransLink
VANCOUVER -- TransLink is appealing to the federal and provincial governments for emergency funding after revealing it's financial losses could lead to dramatic cuts to the Lower Mainland's transportation system.
The transit authority revealed Tuesday that it's losing $75 million a month, or $2.5 million a day, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It says if the funding doesn't come through, riders may face "unprecedented cuts" to transit services.
In a statement, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond indicated if the current trajectory continues, there may be cash flow issues within the next few weeks.
Revenue has dropped by half since mid-March. Ridership, which is TransLink’s biggest source of income, is down 80 per cent and with driving down 60 per cent, revenue from the fuel tax has also fallen significantly. Fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing is also a factor.
“We certainly do have reserves, which are being depleted quickly,” New Westminster mayor and chair of the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation Jonathan Cote said during an interview on CTV Morning Live.
“To be upfront we didn’t have a plan for this kind if dramatic impact in the economy and on ridership. We are working as fast as we can to really address this unprecedented situation.”
Even though ridership has been down in recent weeks, the impacts of service cuts could carry into B.C.'s recovery period.
"We also need to be clear that major changes to our transit system will not only impact our transit system during the crisis, but even during the recovery period at a time when people are getting back to work and things are trying to get back to normal," Coté said during a news conference.
"The changes that are going to have to be contemplated are going to be significant. Our transit system in the region will not be recognizable a month or two from now unless we are able to get support."
Coté says emergency meetings are being held this week to look at what he calls “several unpleasant options,” but that specifics haven't been decided yet.
"These are going to be dramatic changes that are going to affect all aspects of our transit system and there will be some elements of our transit system that will no longer exist," he said.
In a statement, Desmond hinted that some routes could be cut entirely.
"It's a dire situation which will force us to cancel entire routes and significantly reduce service levels on all transit modes, meaning far longer wait times and much more crowding for customers," Desmond said.
Transit has been deemed as an essential service by the province, so the system has remained up and running at a reduced capacity throughout the pandemic.
Coté says he is hopeful senior government will step in.
“If it’s a low priority unfortunately we will have to go through the process of eliminating our transit system here in Metro Vancouver. But if society and the community thinks it’s important we need to be able to show that support to keep a viable system going.”
TransLink has indicated that $200 to $250 million would be able to preserve the service running now and prepare the system to resume normal service when it is safe to do so.