TransLink halts planned layoffs and service reductions with provincial commitment of support

May 11, 2020
British Columbia will work with transit providers on a solution to support the province’s reopening plans.

TransLink has called off its plans to temporarily lay off approximately 1,500 employees and reduce service as a result of the financial strain from the COVID-19 pandemic following commitments from the province of British Columbia to ensure transit service is available as the province plans to restart its economy.  

Last month, TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the agency was left with no other options but to institute the layoffs and service cuts to help stem the C$75 million (US$54.01 million) per month in losses. Last week, the agency announced plans to resume fare collection following the installation of barriers to preserve distance between passengers and operators. The ability to collect fares would return approximately C$2 million (US$1.424 million) per month to the agency’s coffers at current ridership levels.

“This is another important step forward for re-starting British Columbia and Metro Vancouver’s economy. The transit service provided by TransLink is essential to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in our region. We will be ready to provide safe, reliable transit service as people return to work. We are proud to be partnering with the Province of B.C. to ensure transit service is there as the economy recovers,” said Desmond.

British Columbia and TransLink are working on a what they call a comprehensive solution to address the major financial impacts that TransLink has incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The province says ensuring that operators and passengers can safely use public transit is critical to its restart plan during the next weeks and months.

“As we begin to restore the economy through BC’s Restart Plan, services like TransLink will be key to British Columbia’s transition and recovery success. We remain committed to working with and supporting TransLink through this difficult time and into recovery to find solutions that will benefit Metro Vancouver and British Columbia and continue to call on the federal government to join us in this support,” said B.C. Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing Selina Robinson.

The province says it would work with transit agencies on more detailed plans to gradually restore service levels as restrictions begin to lift – both to help people get around and to ensure people can continue to respect physical distancing.

“Today’s commitment by the province of B.C. to help TransLink keep transit service running on Day 1 of the BC Restart Plan is an important first step towards returning TransLink to financial sustainability in the long term,” said Jonathan X. Coté, chair, Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation. “I look forward to working with Minister Robinson and her team through the summer to address the pandemic’s impacts on TransLink finances so that TransLink is equipped to help rebuild our region’s sustainable, innovative economy.”

The province and TransLink noted they will continue to call on the federal government for a national solution to the challenges facing transit systems. Encouraging a solution at the federal level is being championed by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), which held a press conference last week reiterating its calls for the federal government to provide transit agencies across Canada with C$400 million (US$283.58 million) per month to stem losses caused by the pandemic.

At a press conference on May 8, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau noted the federal government’s belief in the essential role of transit and pointed out the historic investments made at the federal level over the years.

“We recognize that public transit is an essential part of growing the economy of helping our cities and mostly helping people be able to get from work to home in a reliable way; that’s why we believe so deeply in transit,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Operation of transit is more of a municipal and provincial responsibility and we hope to see the provinces stepping up and supporting this essential element of the economic relaunch…the federal government is always looking to be a partner in helping out in terms of economic relaunch wherever we can.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.