Public transit needs to be part of a “staged recovery” of B.C.’s economy in the coming months, TransLink’s CEO says.
Kevin Desmond said Metro Vancouver’s transit authority wants to come back strongly when public health officials ease restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19.
Desmond made his comments after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. was getting close to phasing out some restrictions, though that will take careful planning.
“We are already starting to turn our attention to recovery even as we are starting to hear some promising signals from the province from Dr. Henry about a staged reopening of our economy,” Desmond said.
Desmond did not give a timeframe for when he hopes transit services will be restored, but he suggested government funding will be needed.
“As more and more people come back to work and schools reopen in the fall, a lot more people are going to choose public transit and we need to try to find a way with potential funding partners — we hope the province and or the federal government — to help us restore that service and make up for a lot of the lost revenue that we have,” he said.
Last week, TransLink cut 18 bus routes and issued layoff notices to about 1,500 employees.
Ridership across the system is down 83 per cent and revenue losses for 2020 are estimated to be $600-700 million, Desmond said.
On Monday, Henry said distancing measures were put in place within the transit system to reduce the chances of people having contact with others, and health officials have been looking at strategies elsewhere in the world “to formulate how to safely go back to our new normal.”
She said it could mean in some circumstances where people could be less than two metres away from others, wearing a face-covering might be helpful.
Henry said transit is “not a high-risk environment” and there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is spreading through the transit system in B.C.