People who normally depend on public transit will be inconvenienced. To say the least, this would be a gross understatement if even a single day of Unifor’s planned three-day shutdown of Metro Vancouver’s bus and SeaBus services proceeds next week from Wednesday, November 27 to Friday, November 29. Currently, there are plans to resume regular transit services on Saturday, November 30. But beyond this date, in all likelihood, if both sides are unable to come to an agreement, there will be continued scheduled shutdowns of services. This is the last and most powerful card the union can use to push TransLink subsidiary Coast Mountain Bus Company into caving into their demands.
The labour action promises to be the most widespread disruption to transit services in nearly two decades. More importantly, after years of encouraging people to ditch their cars for transit, the alternatives of getting around during work and school days will not be able to absorb the sheer transportation demand that is currently fulfilled daily by buses and SeaBus.
Demand for transit has been soaring; total systemwide transit ridership grew by 18% between 2016 and 2018.
On an average weekday, the region’s bus system sees nearly one million boardings, accounting for roughly 60% of the entire transit system’s ridership.
The region’s busiest bus route, the 99 B-Line between Commercial-Broadway Station and UBC, sees approximately 56,000 boardings every weekday. A very significant proportion of the 81,000 bus trips to and from the UBC campus are made on the 99 B-Line.
Transit is, obviously, how many post-secondary students get around.
According to TransLink, as of this month, 121,000 post-secondary students in Metro Vancouver have a U-Pass. This universal unlimited-travel transit pass program did not exist at all in 2001, when the last strike of transit workers resulted in a four-month-long shutdown of bus and SeaBus services.
The U-Pass program began in 2003 with UBC and SFU, and it has since expanded to a total of 10 post-secondary institutions in the region.
As a case in point: UBC’s transit ridership demand, as a result of the U-Pass coupled with improved transit services, has more than quadrupled since 1997 from the growth of the student/faculty and on-campus populations and a general real shift towards the transit mode.