Coronavirus: TransLink warns of further cuts if no government financial help received

TransLink crews spray a bus with disinfectant. The transit authority says buses are now getting a weekly spray, along with regular cleaning. TransLink

TransLink‘s CEO is warning of more possible service cuts if there is no financial help from government, as ridership dwindles under the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a virtual meeting Thursday morning, the council heard that TransLink is projecting a shortfall of $570 million to $680 million this year.

“We’re still in the midst of this emergency phase,” CEO Kevin Desmond said. “We’re managing the system differently and we’re obviously managing a scaled-down system in part to match capacity to the vastly-diminished demand, but also very much in light of the social-distancing guidelines.”

To continue providing essential service levels, he said the agency has had to draw on critical reserves.

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READ MORE: TransLink to lay off 1,500 workers amid COVID-19 pandemic

On Monday, TransLink announced it would temporarily lay off 1,492 workers across the company. Eighty unionized SkyTrain employees will also be laid off with benefits continuing for 90 days.

At present, about 150,000 riders a week are using the system, which is about one fifth of the usual amount. Four in 10 trips are being made by essential workers.

“Our challenge right now is trying to match the supply to the demand,” Geoff Cross, vice president of transportation planning and policy for TransLink.

“We must continue to explore deeper service cut options if financial aid is not forthcoming and if the pandemic changes the nature of what the demand is on the system.”

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WATCH: Coverage of changes to the TransLink system during the coronavirus outbreak:

B.C. Premier John Horgan has said the federal government needs to step in with emergency operational funding for services such as TransLink.

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