The pandemic has hit TransLink hard, with sharply declining parking and fuel taxes and lower fare revenue.
In its budget presentation to the board in December, TransLink declared: "In developing the 2021 budget, TransLink's paramount focus is on cost efficiences and cost reductions while also delivering the service and commitments to the region."
But one of the regional transportation's budget-cutting measures—the elimination of some bus stops—has run into opposition from transit users.
When nearly one-third of the bus stops along the Macdonald Number 2 route were eliminated last year, more than 100 people declared their opposition to this.
Now, plans to cut more Vancouver bus stops on the 17 and 25 routes in April are once again raising hackles.
On March 12, Joan Gillis objected to TransLink's claim that when these bus stops are removed, the next one is always only a few minutes away.
She emphasized on Facebook that walking two or more extra blocks is "not trivial" for those with mobility problems.
Moreover, she noted that on some days, her ankles are in severe pain.
"There must be many people facing the same issues," Gillis wrote. "I thought public transit was about increasing accessibility, not decreasing it."
She added that she wished that people who make decisions about the transit system were obliged to use it for everything for one month each year.
"I'm also not buying their story about making the routes run better so they can provide more on-time service," Gillis declared. "It would appear to be a way to cut the number of buses on a route and still nominally provide the same frequency. In other words, I suspect this is a cost cutting method, not a customer service move."
Heyman asked to intervene
Another Vancouverite, Alan Cooper, has written to the provincial minister responsible for TransLink, George Heyman, urging him to intervene.
"This week, this policy hit home near where I live as stops were cancelled along Oak St. and King Edward," Cooper stated in his letter. "These bus stops are on Routes 17 and 25. Overall about 20% of bus stops on these routes will be eliminated on 12 April 2021.
"Some of the bus stops to be eliminated are especially important as they are currently serving schools community centres, parks and libraries."
All of this comes as the City of Vancouver is planning to increase density along parts of Oak Street.
"Oak Street will transition to have a more urban residential character with new housing types and an improved overall look and feel," the city website states.
Heyman's Vancouver-Fairview constituency includes all of Oak Street north of 33rd Avenue.
According to Cooper's letter, TransLink has cut the following stops:
* Laurel and King Edward Avenue on the westbound 25 route.
"This bus connects with the King Edward Canada Line Station and bring[s] staff and students to Emily Carr Elementary," Cooper wrote. "It also serves the King Edward Mall, especially Safeway but also many other shops. It is also the closest stop for Talmud Torah Elementary and the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre."
* Oak and West 22nd Avenue on the northbound 17 route.
"This the closest bus stop on the Oak route to the Douglas Park Community Centre," Cooper noted. "It is locate[d] by a mail box and several shops and restaurants."
* West 14th and Oak on the northbound 17 route.
"This is a bike route and has a Mobi stand for bicycles. It is also the closest stop to L'Ecole Bilingue which hosts a District Program which means a larger number of students needing to travel a distance."
* Hamber and Oak Meadows on the 17 route.
"This stop serves Eric Hamber Secondary as well as being near playing fields and Van Dusen Gardens, and 35th Ave is also a bike route," Cooper stated.
Distance to bus stops affects ridership
According to Vancouver transit advocate Nathan Davidowicz, most of these bus stops have existed in the same location for more than 65 years, with changes only coming when new traffic signals were introduced.
In addition, Davidowicz pointed out that more than 50 percent of the regional transit ridership is in Vancouver. Only about one-quarter of the regional population lives in Vancouver.
He argues that TransLink's "one-size-fits-all" model is destroying local bus service in the city.
That's because most Vancouverites are within a five- or six-minute walk to a bus stop, compared to longer walks for many in the suburbs.
Davidowicz maintained that the elimination of bus service will increase walking times—and the city's engineering department simply rubber stamps these changes without real oversight from city council.
In Toronto and most other cities, the standard is either 400 metres or a five-minute walk to a bus stop, according to Davidowicz.
At the March 9 council meeting, COPE councillor Jean Swanson inquired whether the Seniors Advisory Committee or the Persons With Disabilities Advisory Committee were consulted about TransLink's cuts to bus stops. The acting city manager, Paul Mochrie, said he will follow up after he speaks to engineering department staff.