North Van braces for potential full transit strike

North Shore could be hard hit if SeaBus service scuttled

North Shore commuters and businesses were preparing for the worst and hoping for the best Tuesday as the union representing 5,000 bus drivers and TransLink workers sat down for last-ditch talks aimed at forestalling a full-scale transit system shutdown Wednesday morning.

Stakes were high as the two sides sat down for another bargaining session.

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If a deal isn’t reached by Tuesday at midnight – after the North Shore News went to press – the union said it was prepared to shut down much of the transit system, including buses and SeaBus sailings.

While SkyTrain and the West Coast Express will still operate during a strike, that’s cold comfort for most people who live and work on the North Shore, said Patrick Stafford-Smith, CEO of the North Vancouver Chamber.

“It’s really holding the citizens of North Vancouver and the businesses hostage,” said Stafford-Smith.

The North Shore is still relatively underserved by transit, and is very reliant on the SeaBus to connect people to the rest of Metro Vancouver, he said.

“There’s so many people who come from other municipalities to get to work in North Vancouver. So [local businesses] are really seeing the ability of their businesses to function really being impacted.”

Business owners have told the chamber over half of their employees commute by transit from off the North Shore. Many of those employees don’t own a car or even have a driver’s licence, he added.

Some businesses may even have to shut down on certain days if there’s a strike, he said.

Paige Larson of North Shore Sports Medicine said if a transit shutdown does come about, it’ll impact her business.

“Some [clients] have already said they won’t come” if there’s a strike, she said. “It takes too long to get anywhere on the North Shore.”

One bright spot in the event of a TransLink strike is the West Vancouver Blue Bus service, which operates under a different bargaining agreement. West Vancouver buses will continue to run during a TransLink strike – with one major exception: there will be no 257 express bus that normally takes commuters from Horseshoe Bay to downtown.

That’s because in September 2018, West Vancouver handed over responsibility for that route to TransLink.

The Blue Bus will continue to run a regular 250 bus to downtown as well as buses to Capilano University, and other regular Blue Bus routes.

West Vancouver spokeswoman Kristi Merilees warned Blue Buses are expected to be crowded during the TransLink strike, so passengers may end up having to wait longer than usual.

TransLink's HandyDART service will also continue to operate.

Capilano University and local schools will all remain open in the event of a strike.

Many other major employers, including local governments, are encouraging workers to carpool, bike, walk or telecommute from home in the event of a strike.

Seaspan said about 200 of its staff come in via transit every day. The company is encouraging them to join the company’s shuttle service that picks up staff at five different locations on the North Shore.

The company has also set up a ride-share portal on their intranet.

According to TransLink modelling, as many as 36,000 more cars could be on the road in morning rush hour if a full-scale TransLink shut happens. Carpooling options for North Shore residents include GobyRIDE, Poparide, and U-Pool.

Car sharing agencies like Evo and Car2Go are also available in parts of North Vancouver. Evo has also expanded its service boundaries to allow parking anywhere at Capilano University.

For more information on options in the event of a strike, check here.

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