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TransLink cuts service, halts fare increase as ridership plummets over COVID-19

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TransLink says it is reducing bus service across Metro Vancouver, along with SeaBus and West Coast Express schedules, as ridership plummets amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The transit authority also announced Saturday that a planned fare increase set to come into effect on July 1 will be deferred to a later date.

Starting Monday, bus service will be reduced “with a focus on routes with very low ridership,” TransLink said in an emailed statement. Priority will be given to routes that continue to see full buses at peak times.

READ MORE: Metro Vancouver bus driver, transit worker test positive for COVID-19

The SeaBus schedule will also be reduced to 30-minute intervals throughout the day.

West Coast Express trips leaving Mission at 6:55 a.m., and from Waterfront in downtown Vancouver at 5:30 p.m., will also be cancelled.

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TransLink suspends bus fare collection
TransLink suspends bus fare collection

TransLink says since mid-March, boardings across the entire Metro Vancouver transit network have dropped by 83 per cent, with bus boardings down 82 per cent. SeaBus ridership has plummeted 90 per cent in the same time period, while the West Coast Express has seen a 95 per cent drop.

The drops, coupled with the suspension of bus fares to allow for rear-door boarding, have seen TransLink’s revenues drop “dramatically,” the authority said.

A 60 per cent decline in fuel tax revenue due to less people driving has also contributed to the shortfall.

READ MORE: TransLink to limit seating on buses to curb spread of coronavirus

“The current service levels may not be fiscally sustainable and further reductions may become necessary in the near future,” TransLink added.

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No date has been set for the planned fare increase, which was due to be implemented as part of TransLink’s Phase Two Investment Plan.

Single-use fares were scheduled to rise by 20 to 25 cents, while DayPasses would be hiked by 25 cents and monthly passes would increase by $3 to $5.

TransLink makes major changes to Metro Vancouver bus operations due to coronavirus pandemic
TransLink makes major changes to Metro Vancouver bus operations due to coronavirus pandemic

TransLink has already boosted cleaning on its buses, reduced seating to accommodate for physical distancing, sped up the installation of driver barriers and directed passengers to board by buses’ back doors only.

Three TransLink employees — a Burnaby Transit Centre worker, a Port Coquitlam bus driver, and a Richmond HandyDART driver — have tested positive for COVID-19. All three are self-isolating and the affected routes, vehicles and workspaces have been disinfected.