As UBC prepares for the start of the academic year in September, students are concerned about the continued suspension of service on the 480 bus route.
The 480, which provided commuters a direct link from UBC to Bridgeport Station in Richmond, has been suspended since April 2020 as part of TransLink’s efforts to address financial losses and decreased ridership from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In lieu of the 480, TransLink has recommended alternative routes for commuting students. These include buses such as the R4 RapidBus and the 99 B-Line, which would involve transfers from the Canada Line.
In a statement, Jillian Drews of TransLink media relations said that TransLink has continued the suspension of 480 service to focus on servicing overcrowded routes. According to Drews, the 480 was not very busy even before the pandemic.
“The 480 was seeing 4,060 average weekly boardings,” Drews said. “For comparison, the top 20 busiest routes had been about 15,000 and 57,000 average weekday boardings.”
Drews added that TransLink would continue to manage current service levels within existing resources and “will continue to monitor when and where customers need service.”
Meanwhile, the alternative itineraries, Drews said, are more frequent and “run all day,” and TransLink expects the Canada Line to have enough capacity to accommodate commuters who have previously used the 480.
But some have nonetheless expressed concerns with the possibility of delays and overcapacity.
James Yu, a research assistant at the Vancouver School of Economics, stated in an email that the need to transfer and the consequent increased levels of ridership on alternative routes added stress “to an already tiring commute.”
Yu, who is also a fourth-year UBC student, recounted seeing full afternoon trains on the Canada Line following the January 2020 reduction of 480 service to peak hours.
“At UBC, one can easily wait for the next bus,” Yu said. ”But when transferring to the Canada Line at Langara or Oakridge, the next train is always just as full as the last.”
Concerns of overcapacity on alternative routes have accompanied sentiments regarding the risk of COVID-19, including during transfers to busy bus and train lines.
In a similar statement to the Richmond News, Drews noted that the provincial health officer had not advised of increased risk from transfers on transit.
Yu, however, stated that the overcrowding and resulting stress would become an issue “considering what we know about the pandemic’s evolution.”
“We have not yet seen the effects of TransLink’s network at full capacity, and I worry that the concerns we all share about other packed environments will translate to equally serious problems on transit,” Yu said.
Conversely, Bryan Huang, a fourth-year media studies student, said that he understood Drews’s statement regarding health concerns. In an interview, he said that commuting on public transit in general posed a risk, and was something he had to be more comfortable with in the future.
“I would say taking public transit in general is kind of risky,” Huang said, “so just because they don’t have this one bus doesn’t make it more or less risky for me.”
Nevertheless, Huang expressed disappointment over the suspension of the 480, saying that it interrupted “the rhythm of commuting to school” that he was used to in the past.
“It’s like the new normal,” Huang said with a chuckle.