Bus drivers union campaigns for purchase of more buses
“We’re short on buses,” said Don MacLeod, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 111.
“We need to address that shortage now. We’re recognizing what bus drivers have been facing out there for a long time. The overcrowding, the delays, the pass-ups, the inadequate service. It’s gone on for years.”
I agree and have been writing something very much like that on this blog since it started. Allison Cross puts some Translink statistics at the bottom of the story – no one from Translink is quoted – to give the impression that something is happening. But it is woefully inadequate. Not just the story in the Sun, the response on the ground. Yes some more buses are being bought, but not nearly enough to meet the demand. No distinction is given here between new buses that replace old buses too decrepit for further service. What is needed is to see the number of additional buses added to the fleet.
Jim Houlahan also talks, when he and I appear on public platforms together, of the number of buses that actually get put on to the road at peak periods. Not only is there a shortage of serviceable vehicles, there are not enough drivers. CMBC has been running a campaign to recruit drivers for a long time, but with unemployment low, and many jobs paying as well but with much less stress, and no risk of assault from disgruntled members of the travelling public unable to board overcrowded services. CMBC is having a hard time keeping up with the numbers. Especially as the current generation of drivers get to the point where they can retire. Once again the discriminatory policy that forces retirement at 65 is hitting hard. Now, I am not in favour of allowing those too old to cope with staying at work, but if someone is willing, fit and healthy then they can be found duties on less stressful routes than the Hastings trolley,and their years of wisdom are invaluable as trainers.
The shortage of buses became apparent once the bills for SkyTrain had to be paid. We have invested in a very expensive system which services only a small part of the region. And since the transit budget is not enough, but the bills for SkyTrain are huge, there is less left for the rest of the region, that is not served by the trains. Surrey in particular, where the growth of population has been largest, has been left behind Burnaby and Vancouver – and has constantly reminded Translink and its predecessors of that fact. Even anti-transit Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum – who was chair of Translink – understood the problem, but was powerless to change things.
And the current administration has made sure the Mayors will no longer be alwed to murmur their discontents – as they did with the flawed Canada Line – and has continued with the Vancouver gets SkyTrain first policy. My current prediction is that they will be boring the tube under Broadway before the Evergreen Line gets started – if (God help us all) Campbell gets another term.
And there is another thing that is simply not understood. If you buy more buses the service gets better. And that attracts more passengers. It becomes a benevolent spiral. Yet what the previous CEO insisted on instead was UPass – which for a system without any spare capacity was grossly irresponsible. Because the current overcrowding started with UBC and SFU students using their compulsory passes much more than anyone dared to anticipate. And the recent spike in gas prices added to the numbers of people trying to use the transit system. If more money had been spent on buying buses, then ….
You get the picture
UPDATE Oct 22
What’s the problem with our bus system?
Consider the following: currently we have only 1100 buses in service in our entire Metro Vancouver system – that’s not nearly enough! That works out to just one bus for every 1800 Metro Vancouver residents. But 15 years ago, Metro Vancouver had one bus for every 1200 residents. That’s also the current rate of buses in Toronto and Montreal. In other words, we have 50% more residents per bus than we used to, or that Toronto or Montreal have now! No wonder you can’t get on. And it’s not supposed to be that way. Metro Vancouver’s Livable Region Strategic Plan called for 1900 buses to be in service by 2006. And Translink’s own first 5 year Strategic Plan projected 1600 buses in service by 2006. It’s no surprise we have a problem – we are between 500 and 800 buses short.
Here’s another way to look at why we need More Buses Now
In 2002 the convention bus system carried 160 million boarded passengers. By 2004 it jumped 30 million to 190 million passengers, nearly 20% more! But during those same two years, the number of buses and service hours only increased by 2.5%, just a fraction of the need. And each year since 2002 bus ridership has increased more than projected, while plans to buy buses do not even meet current needs.
What is the result of this bus shortage?
Compare Metro Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal’s service:
Percentage of bus routes with 10 minutes service or better
BC Premier Gordon Campbell has announced a Transit Plan to double the current number of buses on the road – but that plan wouldn’t be completed until 2020! That’s far too many years to watch overcrowded buses pass up waiting riders.
It’s time for action – it’s time for More Buses Now!