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Bus drivers warn of more pass-ups 0

By Tyler Orton, 24 Hours Vancouver

Bus drivers launched a campaign Tuesday urging commuters to write politicians and demand a resolution to TransLink's funding woes.

The transit authority proposed last October increasing bus and SeaBus service by 415,000 hours and creating new routes south of the Fraser River, but those plans were halted after TransLink commissioner Martin Crilly last month nixed extra fares.

The unions representing bus drivers and transit workers took out a full-page ad Tuesday in a local paper warning riders of further overcrowding, more buses passing by waiting riders and infrequent service if the budget issues are not resolved soon.

Don MacLeod, president of Canadian Auto Workers Local 111, said commuters won't see many benefits even when a 10% cash fare hike is implemented in 2013.

"They're not going to get any more service for that (fare increase). In fact, service is going to be cut back," he said, adding transit routes will continue to become overcrowded if the province and municipalities can't decide quickly who pays for improved operations.

Crilly shot down a proposed supplementary 12.5% fare hike in April, while Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said later that month municipalities would have to make do without further funding from fuel taxes for transit services.

Meantime, Crilly called on TransLink to slash $40 to $60 million in costs annually over the next decade.

"If they don't have the budget to deliver and they've been cut back on their funding, it's always the bus service they go to first," MacLeod said, adding riders will end up spending more money for reduced service if mayors and the province don't resolve the matter.

Lekstrom said, following a Metro Vancouver mayors' council meeting Tuesday, he was aware of the bus drivers' new campaign.

"If the bus drivers are saying rates should go down, but service should go up, that's not the world in which we live," he said, adding the province and the mayors are already engaged in an ongoing dialogue to resolve TransLink's budget issues.

"I think everybody is doing the best they can with what they've got, but as we want to enhance services, people are going to have to pay more dollars."

But MacLeod said that's not what the campaign is about.

"It's an opportunity for (riders) to send a message to the minister and the mayors to stop your bickering and get to the table to resolve this."

MacLeod said more information about the campaign can be found at MoreBusesNow.ca.


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