A promotional masked bus is part of TransLink’s plan to get more riders to wear masks on transit. (TransLink)

A promotional masked bus is part of TransLink’s plan to get more riders to wear masks on transit. (TransLink)

TransLink expects losses of $500M to $1.4B due to COVID-19, ridership currently at 33%

Only one-third of riders are wearing masks as TransLink ridership is at 33 per cent of normal

Only about one-third of TransLink riders are wearing masks despite a campaign by the transit agency to encourage passengers to slow the spread of COVID-19.

TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said ridership was at 33 per cent of normal as he presented his agency’s plans for post-COVID recovery to the Mayors’ Council on Regional Transportation. Thursday (June 25).

In terms of mask wearing, it is “encouraged” but not required on SkyTrain, Canada Line, buses or any other TransLink services. Desmond said any potential moves to requiring masks would require close coordination with public health officials. Neither Canada nor B.C. currently mandate the wearing of non-medical masks, although both jurisdictions recommend it in situations where physical distancing is not possible.

Chief financial officer Christine Dacre presented four different possible scenarios TransLink was working with to predict how ridership, service levels and funding would work as pandemic recovery progresses. The models are based on the phases of B.C.’s reopening plan – phase 1 lasted from March to May, phase two ran until Wednesday and phase three has now begun.

The first scenario assumes a quick recovery, where B.C. remains in Phase 3 until July 2021, when it moves to Phase 4. Health officials have said that the fourth phase would require a vaccine, effective treatment or widespread community immunity.

The second scenario assumes lasting impacts from COVID-19, where B.C. remains in Phase 3 through the end of 2021.

The third, dubbed “hibernation,” would see a second wave where B.C. moves back to Phase 1 in October, to Phase 2 in January and Phase 3 in February, and mirroring that trend into fall 2021.

The fourth and worst scenario assumes that B.C. will move back to Phase 1 for the summer, Phase 2 for the fall, Phase 1 for winter and swap back and forth between those phases through the end of 2021.

Dacre said the agency’s losses due to COVID-19 would be $500 million in a best-case scenario and up to $1.4 billion in a worst case one.

READ MORE: Surrey-Langley SkyTrain extension faces potential delays due to COVID-19

READ MORE: COVID-19 might speed up, not slow down transit use, advocates say


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