New West mayor rules out union's idea of scaling back transit expansion

New Westminster Mayor and Mayors’ Council Chair Jonathan Coté says the idea of cutting back on transit expansion is “off the table.”

Unifor, the bus drivers’ union, has suggested scaling back transit expansion projects in order to pay for increases in a future drivers’ contract. The two sides are struggling to reach a new contract and drivers have been escalating job action.

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Coté issued a statement Monday morning saying expanding transit service is crucial to Metro Vancouver.

“As Chair of the Mayors’ Council, I am disappointed that we have not been able to resolve the current labour dispute with Unifor,” he said. “It is disappointing to hear Unifor leadership suggest that bus expansion be scaled back in order to pay for their wage demands. Scaling back transit expansion in this region is completely off the table. With North American-leading ridership growth, a climate emergency and growing road congestion, now is not the time to slow down transit improvements. Cutting the funding used to buy additional buses and hire more bus drivers will also do nothing to improve the working conditions of our valuable transit operators.

“The Mayors’ Council has worked almost single-mindedly the past four years to improve and expand our transit network through its 10-Year Vision. Well over 90% of the bus service expansion we have approved in the first two phases of the Vision in 2017 and 2018 has been directed at our most overcrowded routes to provide more frequency and more passenger capacity. Over 20% of these service improvements is to add run-time to improve reliability for customers and recovery time for operators. 

“If the Mayors’ Council were to roll back these bus service improvements in order to pay for what the union is asking, bus overcrowding would increase, which is exactly what union leaders claim they want to see reduced.”

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