BRU Attends TransLink Meeting to Demand 7 Day a Week Night Owl Service
Outraged bus riders will confront the TransLink at the July 30th Board of Directors meeting, demanding that TransLink restore 7 day a week late night bus service for the region. Bus Riders Union (BRU) organizers are angered by TransLinks refusal to deal with a straightforward end to the curfew on riders throughout the region; BRU organizers will give Board Members yet another chance to “do the right thing” by restoring the Night Owl buses.
“We’ve been in the community talking to bus riders about this new Friday and Saturday only service,” says BRU organizer Aiyanas Ormond, “and while riders welcome the Night Bus service, most transit-dependent night workers are quick to point out that it is totally inadequate to their needs. What we’re talking about – four routes on two nights – is basically a subsidy to downtown bar owners.”
TransLink has planned its new night service based on the assumption that the main users the service are “young people with modest incomes” accessing social activities in Downtown Vancouver. The basis of these claims is a 2002 report prepared by the consulting company Urban Systems.
“Frankly, those assumptions are completely untenable,” says Ormond, “the study is based on a survey of 125 night time bus riders on two routes. It even reports that the data should be ‘viewed with caution’. Well, no doubt; the survey was completed on a mere two routes, one of which ran through an affluent Westside neighbourhood to UBC – that’s hardly reflective of the travel patterns of transit dependent night workers. Even according to this skewed data, 15% of surveyed riders were traveling to or from work. These workers were simply left out in the cold when TransLink imposed the curfew. Many continue to lose jobs and many more still struggle with a TransLink-imposed curfew; riders are reduced to sleeping at their workplace or walking outrageous distances in unsafe conditions. Hundreds of workers are not able to take shifts that they really need to survive. This is the reality of the curfew TransLink has imposed on transit dependent people.”
The Bus Riders Union is currently conducting grassroots research on the impacts of the bus rider curfew; a report will be presented to TransLink at the September Board meeting. Yet BRU organizers, who hear from hundreds of riders each week during ‘on-the-bus’ organizing sessions and at monthly community meetings, are adamant that TransLink must act now to lift the curfew.
“It’s absolutely unconscionable that these TransLink directors, none of whom actually rely on public transit, sit on their hands while bus riders suffer,” says BRU organizer Yang Chang. “They are spending billions on the Richmond-Airport-Vancouver Skytrain line; they are allocating $300,000 to study rapid transit in the Northeast sector, why can’t they spend money to restore the Night Owl buses cut due to a supposed funding crunch? To us it appears as if they just don’t consider low-wage workers, many of them immigrants and refugees who rely on this service, as their target ridership. It looks like a form of systemic racism and we’re not going to just sit and take it!”