A Bus Riders Union for Vancouver|
Angry Bus Riders on the Move
Remember the .25 fare increase in June 2000 that was supposed to buy us 117 new buses? On March 31, the day before transit workers began their strike, TransLink directors voted 'yes' to $ 5 000 000 in bus cuts. TransLink directors ignored over 10 hours of oral presentations from 150 angry bus riders and transit workers demanding that TransLink reject the proposed cuts. After the long and emotional day, the Board made the decision to slash buses in minutes. Services cut are all night owl buses running after 1:30 am, a reduction in service on 40% of all routes, including already overcrowded routes like the #9, and the elimination of 5 entire routes. These cuts will strand many night workers, leave communities without any public bus service, and impose a curfew on the transit dependant in our city. Three months after the strike ends, TransLink will implement service rollbacks, with even more to come.
At a recent TransLink Board meeting, the new CEO Pat Jacobsen reported that TransLink could face up to a $ 55 000 000 deficit next year, far more than the anticipated $ 37 000 000. This means even deeper cuts to service, over 20% of the whole bus system next year, and another fare increase!
Where are all the savings from the strike going? Certainly not into our bus system! Bus riders are paying hand over fist for a 'Skytrain to nowhere', with no buses to pick up the riders at the station.
At the same time the Greater Vancouver Regional Districts was attempting to privatize water filtration, TransLink (and GVRD) chair George Puil announced intentions to privatize our transit system. Privatization has virtually destroyed bus systems in other cities in order to put profits into corporate pocketbooks. Despite the claim that a shortage of funds provides the impetus for privatization, there is no evidence that private bus routes save the public purse any money. The infrastructure and vehicles are often provided at public expense. Bus riders pay the cost of this subsidy to corporations. In addition to higher fares, riders also experience a reduction in service, confusing schedules and transfers between routes, poorly maintained buses, high breakdown rates, and poorly trained and over-worked bus drivers.
Bus Riders Fight to Win
The Bus Riders Union is an organization of transit dependent people fighting for our right to a first rate public transit system. To build a bus system that meets the needs of all riders the transit dependent must be at the center of transit policy in this region. This includes building an affordable transit system that is publicly owned and democratically controlled by transit users. We need a moratorium on Skytrain spending until we have a long term plan to fund and expand the bus system that is the backbone of public transportation in the Lower Mainland. The reality of privatization must be exposed; the more bus riders find out about transit privatization the less they will like it.
The Bus Riders Union is planning a campaign of intensive on the bus organizing to fight the cuts as the basis of building of a multi-racial, working class grassroots organization to fight for public transit. Positive change for our transit system can only be achieved through the sustained efforts of a grassroots, multi-racial organization. Organizers with the Union approach our work as an essential experiment in building an independent movement of working class people focussed on an issue broad enough to include a diversity of people. Riding the bus is an experience many share in common; access to transportation is a critical issue facing all low-income people. With time and energy, we can build a movement that can achieve these demands, and more.
To get involved:
- Martha Roberts