“Scaling back transit expansion … completely off the table”: Mayors’ Council Chair

JONATHAN Cote, New Westminster Mayor and Mayors’ Council Chair, on Monday said that it was disappointing to hear Unifor leadership suggest that bus expansion be scaled back in order to pay for their wage demands and added: “Scaling back transit expansion in this region is completely off the table.”

Cote said: “With North American-leading ridership growth, a climate emergency and growing road congestion, now is not the time to slow down transit improvements. Cutting the funding used to buy additional buses and hire more bus drivers will also do nothing to improve the working conditions of our valuable transit operators. “

He pointed out: “Our bus service is a critical component of our transit system and our bus expansion plans are an important part of the Mayors’ 10-Year Vision. As a regular transit user, I know how hard our bus employees work to deliver transportation services to our region’s residents and I believe they deserve a fair settlement.”

Cote said: “The Mayors’ Council has worked almost single-mindedly the past four years to improve and expand our transit network through its 10-Year Vision. Well over 90% of the bus service expansion we have approved in the first two phases of the Vision in 2017 and 2018 has been directed at our most overcrowded routes to provide more frequency and more passenger capacity. Over 20% of these service improvements is to add run-time to improve reliability for customers and recovery time for operators.

“If the Mayors’ Council were to roll back these bus service improvements in order to pay for what the union is asking, bus overcrowding would increase, which is exactly what union leaders claim they want to see reduced.

“I am proud of the 10-Year Vision and our progress on it, especially in contrast to the reality facing many cities in North America where transit service is frozen and even being cut. In fact, given Metro Vancouver’s exploding ridership growth, the Mayors’ Council has agreed that we must accelerate approval of the final phase of the Vision. Transit users and commuters have been very clear that they expect us to continue adding service.”

Cote said: “I’m asking both sides to return to the bargaining table and for Unifor to put an end to job action which is impacting commuters and some of the most vulnerable residents in our region who rely on public transit.

“We want to see the parties reach a fair and reasonable agreement as quickly as possible. And, we want Unifor to once again stand side by side with the Mayors’ Council – as they did during our recent Cure Congestion campaign – to continue advocating for investment in Metro Vancouver’s transit system, for the benefit of transit users, workers and our communities.”