U-Pass suspended for the summer as TransLink faces insolvency
By Craig Allan, Staff Writer
If someone said in January that TransLink was going to be unable to pay its debts not even half way into the year, it would have sounded impossible. Yet, in the throws of the coronavirus, that is where TransLink finds itself.
Having already suspended the U-Pass program for all post-secondary schools in the region (including Douglas College) and reducing service due to a large drop off in customer travel related to the pandemic, Translink is facing the possibility of being insolvent before Canada Day.
Earlier this month, Douglas College announced that they had reached an agreement between TransLink to suspend the U-Pass for the summer semester. This will mean a $170 savings for students taking classes in the summer. For many who may rely on the U-Pass for everyday life, the college has said that financial aid may be possible for those who can show need and have proper documentation. Students looking to apply for this should contact the Douglas College Financial Aid Office.
In a statement given to the Other Press by the U-Pass office of the school, it is explained that the pass will be suspended for the entirety of the summer semester—even if restrictions are lifted.
There may also be more savings coming to Douglas students regarding the U-Pass. For many students, the use of the pass for the month of April has been fruitless because of the lack of need for any students to travel. The U-Pass office states that “Douglas College is in ongoing discussions with TransLink, other post-secondary institutions and student association representatives about potential refunds for students who have not used their April pass. Students not needing their April U-Pass are encouraged not to use it.”
For TransLink, the loss of revenue from the U-Pass is just another brick out of their financial wall. This combined with the factors of falling revenue due free transit on buses, falling ridership, and a smaller fuel tax revenue due to the lack of people driving and gassing up, are causing TransLink to lose $75 million a month, according to the CBC.
The transit system could find itself unable to pay its bills by June and will need a bailout from the provincial and federal governments in order not to go insolvent according to the TransLink Mayors’ Council Chair and New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote. The mayor has even said that “there will be some elements of our transit system that will no longer exist.”
The warnings are ominous. What services could go extinct soon? Will future transit projects like the SkyTrain extension to Langley or the extension to UBC be in jeopardy? For students who live far from transit hubs, service was already not the best—and more cuts to buses could be devastating.