Metro Vancouver transit riders warned to explore options as SkyTrain shutdown looms

Metro Vancouver’s transit authority is warning customers to explore their commuting options to avoid congesting the transit system in the event of a shutdown of the Millennium and Expo lines.

CUPE Local 7000 announced job action last week that would shut down the Expo and Millennium lines beginning the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 10 and potentially extending through to Friday, Dec. 13.

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The two lines service the suburbs east of Vancouver, including Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey and the Tri-Cities area.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said the B.C. Rapid Transit Company and CUPE 7000 are still at the table, working to settle the collective bargaining dispute in time to avoid a shutdown.

“I’m hopeful that a deal can be made during the course of this day and into the evening,” he said. “This will be extremely disruptive, and to be very clear there’s no way to replace a system that reliably moves 150,000 people per day, each weekday. Many people will be left with no other options.”

However, in case no deal is reached, Desmond warned riders to look at their options, whether it’s riding their bikes, taking a bus, driving a car, using carpooling services and walking.

But he said those options may also be disrupted by the job action – with tens of thousands of commuters seeking other modes of transportation, there could be added congestion elsewhere.

Desmond urged riders to check the news and TransLink website Tuesday morning to see if any deals were made overnight.

The TransLink CEO said the company has been asked questions about increasing bus service to replace the SkyTrain service, but he said the transit authority is not able to increase its bus capacity.

It’s not the first threat of a transit service shutdown in the past month – Unifor-represented workers made a similar threat after talks broke down with the Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates all of TransLink’s buses and SeaBuses. The two parties ultimately came to a deal late in the night, avoiding a shutdown.

Desmond acknowledged the job action may result in cutting down revenues for TransLink.

“As a matter of fact, ridership is already down as of the Unifor job action. We’ve seen some softening of our ridership,” Desmond said. “That means less fare bucks, revenue. So it is important to try to get it settled.”

Desmond declined to comment on the state of negotiations and wouldn’t say what issues are currently blocking a deal.

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