Advertisement

Transit strike Day 23: North Shore businesses suffering as SeaBus cancellations continue

North Shore businesses brace for transit strike
With SeaBus sailings continuing and a three-day transit system shutdown looming, many North Shore businesses say they're already struggling and are bracing for things to get even worse. Nadia Stewart reports.

Bus service was mostly back to normal Saturday after a week of escalated job action for striking transit operators, but more SeaBus cancellations were announced as maintenance workers continue to refuse overtime.

Metro Vancouver is now more than three weeks into job action as the union representing 5,000 bus drivers, SeaBus operators and maintenance workers puts increasing pressure on Coast Mountain Bus Company to meet its contract demands.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver transit strike — Here’s how your commute may be affected

Ten SeaBus sailings were cancelled Saturday, all in the evening:

Lonsdale Quay

  • 6:47 p.m.
  • 7:17 p.m.
  • 7:47 p.m.
  • 8:17 p.m.
  • 8:47 p.m.

Waterfront

  • 7:01 p.m.
  • 7:31 p.m.
  • 8:01 p.m.
  • 8:31 p.m.
  • 9:01 p.m.

Because all SeaBus trips need an engineer on board, TransLink has been forced to cancel sailings nearly every day since the maintenance worker overtime ban began on Nov. 1.

Story continues below advertisement

That’s put a major strain on businesses operating on the North Shore that rely on the SeaBus to survive, particularly around the terminal in Lonsdale Quay.

Now, those businesses are bracing for a planned system-wide shutdown from Wednesday morning until Friday evening when all bus and SeaBus operators walk off the job.

Metro Vancouver transit strike: Day 22 brings more disruptions, increased anxiety
Metro Vancouver transit strike: Day 22 brings more disruptions, increased anxiety

Alyssa Ytterberg and Steve Michell, who manage the Tap & Barrel Shipyards pub just outside the terminal, say the strike could place a major burden on their staff, many of whom commute from the Lower Mainland by SeaBus.

“Unfortunately, our staff might not be able to make it to work and it would definitely impact our business,” Ytterberg said.

“Some of them already commute an hour, so without transit, it could be even worse.”

READ MORE: Transit strike Day 22 — Commuters prepare for the worst with shutdown looming

Michell himself takes the SeaBus to work daily. He’s already planning ahead but says alternate transportation options, like car share, aren’t nearly as reliable.

“There’s not too many of those around, so yeah, it will be a struggle,” he said.

“Thank God that they let us all know about it already, so I’ve taken the precautions to find my way just in case it happens, but a lot of people are worried.”

Story continues below advertisement
Fears of system shutdown next week have transit users scrambling
Fears of system shutdown next week have transit users scrambling

Darrell Mussatto, the four-term mayor of North Vancouver who retired in 2018, had a hand in developing Lonsdale Quay and making it a destination for businesses like Tap & Barrel. The main selling point: the traffic brought in by the SeaBus.

“For the North Shore, the SeaBus is absolutely vital,” he said, adding the impacts of mass cancellations would ripple out to traffic on the North Shore bridges.

“All you have to do is miss one or two sailings, and we see the backup here on the North Shore,” he said. “You’ll see the bridges, they’re already pretty much at capacity. So both the Ironworkers and the Lions Gate will be gridlocked for those days.”

Before being elected mayor in 2005, Mussatto served four terms as a city councillor, overseeing the impacts of the 2001 transit strike.

READ MORE: ‘I’m scared’ — Vancouver man who relies on home care says he’ll be stranded by transit strike

That strike lasted for four months, which was devastating for businesses on the North Shore, some of which were forced to close their doors for good as foot traffic dwindled.

Greg Holmes, executive director of the Lower Lonsdale Business Improvement Area, told CKNW’s Lynda Steele earlier this month that the remaining businesses spent months recouping their losses after the 2001 strike ended.

Story continues below advertisement

“These are businesses that have rather small margins to begin with, and they don’t have a corporate office to rely on,” he said.

“So a few days, a couple of weeks, they can manage. But if this [strike] should drag out for several weeks into months, it could be a real issue.”

Holmes said this month’s job action began right as the North Shore was starting to see momentum build from the improvements to Lonsdale Quay brought in by the local government and TransLink. Ridership and foot traffic has been going up steadily, he said, and businesses were seeing surges in their revenues.

READ MORE: B.C. government won’t fast track ridesharing licences to ease potential transit strike pain

All involved are now hoping a deal can be reached between the two sides before Wednesday’s planned walkout.

“I think both sides know very well the consequences of the service disruption to the SeaBus, for sure,” Mussatto said.

“I think think the passengers, especially, know this is a very difficult situation and they hope it’s resolved so that no one is inconvenienced. It affects everyone.”