Security guards assigned to control frustrated bus riders

Posted: September 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

Security guards are being assigned “to keep the peace” among scores of frustrated transit riders who are being left on the side of the road by over-crowded night buses.

The union representing bus drivers with TransLink’s Coast Mountain Bus Company predicts the situation will get even worse as TransLink pre-pares to cut 50,000 bus service hours in December because of a budget shortfall.

“The bus system is in crisis,” said Don MacLeod, president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union. “Our members can’t keep up with the schedules out there now … and when (riders) finally do get on the bus they tend to release their frustration on the driver.

“We’re in for a brutal fall and winter season here in the bus system.”

TransLink confirmed security guards monitor hot spots along the transit system, and move in where they’re needed. The practice usually involves one guard riding a crowded bus with another following behind in a car, spokesman Drew Snider said. The idea is to protect the driver and passengers along the route, while pre-venting frustrated riders from boarding the already overcrowded bus.

That doesn’t help those left without a lift. Dozens of people were recently stranded in Vancouver because the last night bus to Surrey, which runs at 3: 30 a.m., was full within a few stops of leaving downtown.

“Every night, (drivers) pass up riders; they cannot accommodate all the passengers who are waiting,” MacLeod said. He said passengers passed up by the last Saturday night bus are often still waiting for rides when bus service resumes on Sunday morning. “If you live in the suburbs, you can’t afford to pay $50 to $60 to get a taxi to get home.”

Snider acknowledges that crowding is a problem across the region. It led TransLink in April to add more night buses, including an articulated bus for the last run on the N20 route along Victoria Street and a 2: 59 a.m. bus to UBC to collect passengers left stranded on the south side of the Granville Bridge. Most night buses to Surrey, North Vancouver and Richmond also run every half-hour.

Snider said he isn’t surprised there are pass-ups, especially as the new laws about drinking and driving have led more people to consider transit to get home.

But he said adding another bus on an overcrowded route isn’t an option because TransLink can’t afford it. In extreme cases, a bus may be brought into service, he said, but that happens rarely. “We are definitely trying to stay on top of it but it’s a challenge especially because of the funding,” he said. “It’s fair to say all throughout the region it would be stretched.”

TransLink officials warned this week that it will make several changes to its bus system, including reducing its “buffer” fleet, which means fewer spare buses will be on standby, and “slack” time for drivers, which had given them extra time to make connections if they were caught in traffic. There will also be reduced schedules, with half-hour service changed to hourly in some cases.

The changes are expected to cause more bus passengers to face delays or missed connections.

TransLink blames its budget crunch on lower-than-expected gasoline tax revenues and a lack of a long-term funding source for transportation projects. Besides forcing cuts to existing services, it means TransLink can-not afford additional buses or other services in the next three years.

The transportation authority had been hoping to raise another $30 million annually through a two-year temporary property tax increase for 2013-14, but it was vetoed by the TransLink mayors’ council at the last minute. A proposed fare increase was also rejected.

MacLeod says the mayors’ council, which had initially approved the temporary property tax, should honour its earlier decision, saying “if it’s not illegal what they’ve done, it’s immoral.”

Mayors’ council vice-chairman Peter Fassbender, who voted not to rescind the property tax hike, said he would sup-port bringing it back if it meant protecting transit services. The issue is likely to come up next week, he said, when may-ors meet with TransLink officials.

via Security guards assigned to control frustrated bus riders.

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