Bowen Island residents stranded after TransLink suspends bus services

All of Bowen Island’s public transportation services have been suspended by TransLink as the company faces declining revenues during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The island’s three bus routes, 280 Snug Cove/Bluewater, 281 Snug Cove/Eaglecliff, and 282 Mt Gardner/Snug Cove have been temporarily suspended as of May 2.

TransLink says the routes were selected because of low ridership, with the 280 and 281 lines averaging less than 20 boardings per day. The 282 route runs on weekends and holidays. 

“Temporary suspensions are necessary due to the unprecedented financial challenges TransLink is now facing,” said a TransLink spokesperson.  

Due to COVID-19 the company says its ridership is down 83 percent resulting in losses of $75 million per month.  

Residents reliant on buses

Bowen Island mayor Gary Ander says while ridership is down of late on these bus routes there are essential workers, seniors and sick people that rely on them.  

“There’s nobody that’s taking the bus for the fun of it right now. That’s all pretty well essential travel for them,” said Ander. 

Ander says some of the island’s approximately 4,000 residents rely on TransLink’s services now more than ever because of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“[We’re] absolutely isolated, and that’s what makes it sort of crippling when that service does go down. I mean it’s not a huge service that they provide on the island to start with, and when it’s cut down to zero that really doesn’t help,” said Ander.

“I understand it’s hard times for TransLink but I think we’re an exceptional case, and I think they should at least open up a conversation here to see if they can help us out.”  

Ander says he has reached out to TransLink and is trying to work out a solution that could include reduced service, with one bus operating all three routes.   

In the meantime, the municipality has partnered with the Bowen Island Transportation Society to provide a single bus as an emergency service for one week starting May 4. 

The service will attend to the entire island, including ferry passengers. 

The mayor says there is one taxi service on the island which is not currently operating due to COVID-19.

TransLink suspended a total of six routes, and reduced service on four others Saturday. Previously 18 routes were suspended on April 24. In mid-May, 41 additional lines will be suspended, while service will be reduced on all remaining routes.  

The company says the province has committed to restoring near-regular service by September 2020. 

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