No sign of transit riders’ realities in latest Translink commissioner’s report

There’s no good news for transit riders in the first report by new Translink Commissioner Robert Irwin, who declares that the very real service reduction required by Translink’s “service optimization” program  in its 2014 Base Plan “avoids overall cuts on the ground.”

This is no consolation to the thousands of Translink riders who experience overcrowding, pass-ups and late buses on the existing system, where more and more riders are sharing service that has not been increased for several years.

Bus drivers, members of Unifor 111, have been front and centre highlighting this problem.

Under service optimization, buses are moved from lower ridership routes to higher ones, allowing marginal improvements on some routes while service is reduced on others, usually in outlying areas.

Irvin acknowledges that the 2014 plan “flat lines (but at a slightly lower level) overall transit service for 10 years,” meaning many more people will be boarding the same number of buses for a long time to come. He then warns critics that riders have had it good, maybe too good:

“The concern that the system is falling behind urban growth should be kept in perspective. During a long and financially unsustainable surge prior to 2009, transit service expanded faster than population.

“In both absolute and per capita terms, the supply of transit service is still relatively high. On a per capita basis, the supply of transit service would decline through the 10 years of the Plan, slipping back to the level experienced by the region in 2005 but would still be higher than the years prior to 2005.”

Nonetheless, Irwin warns, Translink may soon have to start selling assets to avoid fare increases. No service increases, probable fare hikes . . . just another tough news day for transit users.