TransLink cancels fare collection, moves to rear-door boarding to prevent spread of COVID-19

TransLink is introducing new measures to comply with recommendations for social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Beginning March 20, TransLink will introduce rear-door-only boarding and prohibit sitting close to operators on the bus and SeaBus. Since cash fares cannot be collected at the rear doors and not all rear doors have Compass Card readers, TransLink has also decided to halt fare collection on buses.

Buses will receive increased cleaning and disinfecting as well as protective barriers for operators. TransLink will also launch an education campaign promoting good hygiene and social distancing measures.

It emphasized that the changes are specifically meant to protect bus operators working throughout the pandemic.

“We are taking this step to allow greater social distancing to protect our Coast Mountain Bus Company operators at this time,” reads a written statement by TransLink.

The company is still collecting fares on its services that don’t require operators to collect fees including SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express.

This announcement follows similar measures taken by BC Transit, where rear-door boarding and fare suspension for 30 days were introduced in Greater Victoria and Nanaimo on March 19.

In its statement, TransLink also noted that fewer people are using the transit system.

“As extraordinary social distancing measures are being put into place across the region, TransLink has also seen a commensurate and significant decline in ridership. This means there are far fewer passengers using the system, which allows for greater social distancing,” reads the statement.

It calculated that for March 17 specifically, bus boardings were down 48 per cent compared to the same day in 2019 — and total boardings were down 52 per cent.

It is still unclear how these changes will impact the U-Pass program. In a written statement to The Ubyssey, TransLink said that since the program is administered through each partner school's student fees, they are consulting with universities and student societies.

“Given these arrangements, TransLink is in discussions with post-secondary school and student society representatives about the fees and continued use of this program in light of the impacts on classes and transportation from COVID-19,” reads the statement.

This story has been updated to include a statement from TransLink.