By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer
On August 27 and 30, SFU Ancillary Services and TransLink hosted Reconnecting with Transit: A Return to Campus Student Webinar with TransLink. At the webinar, Dave Lewin, TransLink’s senior advisor for public affairs, explained safety measures and the new technology they’re implementing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
At the start of the pandemic, there was a 83% reduction in commuters, but recently the daily number of TransLink users rose to 50% of the pre-pandemic amount.
Lewin pointed out that decreased daily riders during the earlier stage of the pandemic reflected British Columbians’ transition to online school and work, cycling, and driving. With the vaccine rollout, restrictions are lifted, leading to an increase in ridership. If the vaccines continue to effectively reduce the spread of COVID-19, TransLink anticipates the total number of daily riders will reach 80% of the amount of pre-COVID-19 daily riders.
As part of TransLink’s Safe Operating Action Plan, they have implemented many safety measures for customers, including mandatory face masks, frequent cleaning, and social distancing. Bus drivers will also have a physical barrier between them and commuters. On the Transit app, TransLink launched a pilot program where commuters can preview the amount of empty seats on arriving buses. This aims to help commuters physically distance and choose if they want to wait for the next bus.
TransLink is helping in COVID-19 vaccine rollout by providing shuttle services to vaccine clinics, and specially-equipped buses as vaccination sites in partnership with Fraser Health. The Group Vaccine Shuttle Program will increase accessibility to vaccine clinics, mainly for vulnerable groups. At different vaccine pop-up locations, Fraser Health will accept drop-in appointments at their VAX buses.
Through their pilot program, TransLink will test copper coating, which is designed to reduce virus and bacteria’s lifespan on surfaces. According to Lewin, TransLink is “the first in North America to pilot copper coating on transit.”
Dr. Marthe Kenny Charles, a medical microbiologist featured in the webinar, explained the rationale behind the copper coating pilot.
“The viruses and bacteria don’t survive well on copper. As a matter of fact, copper kills it. We want to be able to harness that potential,” Dr. Charles said.
They also improved the new buses’ roofs and driver seats’ ventilation systems, so they “can provide upwards of 10 fresh air changes per hour.”
Lewin explained TransLink will be “tracking and monitoring how the travel patterns changed during COVID-19, and we’ll be using those findings to really allocate that service to the busiest routes to hopefully reduce that crowding.”
In September, some major bus routes and SeaBus will have more frequent service to help students commute to campus.
The West Coast Express, which had trips cancelled during the pandemic, will resume full service between its Mission and Waterfront destinations beginning September 7.
TransLink also implemented new safety measures for bikers. Throughout Metro Vancouver, they set up bike racks and bike lockers. TransLink will also be releasing maps outlining possible, safe bike routes.
For more updated information on TransLink’s services, visit their social media or website, www.translink.ca. To plan your commute to campus, visit TransLink’s trip planner. Download the SeeSay mobile application to stay updated with transit announcements, crime reports, and more. Subscribe to text or email notifications for service disruptions via TransLink’s website.