TransLink announces temporary layoff notices to 1,492 employees; other cost-saving measures

TRANSLINK on Monday announced a series of cost-saving measures to preserve Metro Vancouver’s transit system along with a commitment from the Province to ensure near-regular service can be restored by September. TransLink is losing $75 million per month with ridership down by 83% while still providing transit services for essential workers. It said this rate of financial loss is not sustainable.

TransLink and its operating companies announced the following cost-saving measures:

  • Implement further suspension of transit services on Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus, and West Coast Express, beginning this week.
  • Issue temporary layoff notices to 1,492 employees. These employees work in various positions at TransLink, Coast Mountain Bus Company, and British Columbia Rapid Transit Company.
  • Reduce senior executive salaries and Board remuneration by 10%.
  • Reduce organizational costs and program expenditures, including:
    • Deferral of the 2020 Major Road Network operations, maintenance and rehabilitation program funding to municipalities. 
    • Deferral of 2020 service expansions.
  • Spend cash reserves to sustain current essential service operations through to the end of 2020.

“This has been an incredibly tough decision and one we do not take lightly,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “We’ve done our best to try and reduce costs through other means, but TransLink is losing $75 million per month, and we’re left with no other options. It’s not lost on me what an impact this decision will have on the lives of our employees and their families. I fully expect those affected will be recalled once TransLink returns to regular operations, which we are now planning for back-to-school in September, if consistent with provincial guidelines.”

TransLink and the Province of BC have been working closely to ensure that funding is available to allow TransLink to reverse layoffs and return to near-regular operations in time for back-to-school in September. TransLink and the Province are also working on a plan to address the longer-term fiscal sustainability of TransLink in order to ensure the transportation authority can continue delivering transit services and key projects in 2021 and beyond.

TransLink’s revenue has declined since mid-March due to reduced ridership levels, falling fuel tax revenue, and fare removal on the bus system to promote physical distancing. Since the beginning of the pandemic, TransLink has:

  • Reduced Bus, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express services.
  • Reduced the seating capacity on buses to promote physical distancing.
  • Introduced rear-door only boarding and suspended fare collection on buses to protect bus operators.
  • Introduced widespread and intensive cleaning and sanitization measures on bus, HandyDART, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.
  • Deferred the scheduled July 1 fare increase.

Details of Service Changes

TransLink said it is focused on maintaining as much service as possible for the approximately 75,000 people using the system each weekday. Many of these are essential and front-line workers. However, considering the current financial trajectory, service reductions across all modes will begin this week on routes with low ridership. Capacity will continue to be focused on the routes and times with continued high demand.

Service reductions by mode are:

SkyTrain Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), Expo and Millennium Line capacity will be further reduced.
    • Expo Line capacity will be reduced by 20% during peak hours.  During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
    • Millennium Line capacity will be reduced by 15% during peak hours. During middays, early evenings, and weekends, capacity will be reduced by 20% to 40%, depending on the time of day.
      • These capacity reductions are in addition to a 17% reduction during peak hours and a 20% reduction on Friday and Saturday evenings, which were implemented last month.
  • Canada Line capacity has been reduced by 18% during peak hours.

Bus Service

  • Beginning Friday (April 24), 18 bus routes will be suspended.
    • Suspended routes: 15, 32, 50, 68, 105, 131, 132, 143, 222, 480, 414, R3.
      • Most of these routes have other transit as alternatives
    • Suspended NightBus routes: N8, N15, N17, N22, N24, N35.
  • Beginning in early May, TransLink expects another 47 routes will be suspended, and frequency reduced on many remaining routes.
    • Expected route suspensions: 251, 252, 262, 280, 281, 282, 370, 563, 564, 044, 170, 181, 182, 231, 241, 247, 258, 345, 352, 354, 391, 393, 394, 395, 416, 509, 602, 603, 604, 606, 608, 614, 616, 617, 618, 619, 719, 722, 733, 741, 744, 748, 749, 791, 042, 150, 179.
    • Precise timing for these suspensions and reductions will be released in due course.
  • TransLink is prioritizing service to routes serving hospitals and other health facilities.
  • Routes selected for suspension either duplicate other routes or are in low ridership areas.
  • The number of people TransLink can move on buses was reduced to around 30% of normal levels due to physical distancing measures. Once all planned service reductions are implemented, the number of people TransLink can move will decrease further, to around 20% of normal levels.

SeaBus Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), SeaBus will end service earlier.
    • The last SeaBus sailing of the day will happen at 7:30 p.m. from Lonsdale Quay and 7:45 p.m. from Waterfront.
  • SeaBus will continue sailings every 30 minutes.

West Coast Express Service

  • Beginning Wednesday (April 22), West Coast Express trains One, Three, and Five will continue to operate on existing schedules but will have fewer cars.
  • Trains Two and Four remain suspended.

Essential Services and Physical Distancing

With ridership down over 80% across the system, analysis suggests physical distancing will still be possible for most trips. TransLink has limited seating on buses and operators will not make any stops once capacity is reached. On SkyTrain, customers are asked to try a different car or wait for the next train if they feel there is not enough space to remain physically distant from other passengers.

Customers are also asked to only travel on transit if necessary, so space is available for essential service workers.