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Richmond resident concerned about continued suspension of UBC bus

TransLink says the route suspension allows the transit authority to put service where it's most needed, on overcrowded routes
Richmond bus
A Richmond resident says she is concerned about TransLink's continued suspension of the 480 bus from Bridgeport Station to UBC.

A Richmond resident says she’s concerned about the ongoing suspension of a direct bus service to UBC with in-person classes set to resume in September.

The 480 bus, from Bridgeport Station to UBC, was suspended by TransLink at the start of the pandemic.

The route allowed commuters from Richmond, as well as from other cities such as Delta, to use just one mode of transport out to the university from Richmond, said Freda Moraes, who works at the university.

“Bus route 480 has been the mode of transport for many students and employees of UBC, not only those living in Richmond but from other cities as well,” Moraes said in an email to the Richmond News.

Moraes, who has been taking the 480 bus to work “for the longest time,” said that on most school days, the bus was packed to full capacity with passengers standing. 

“It is the most packed bus during peak hours.”

She said she reached out to TransLink about the suspension but was told that there were other routes available out to UBC, and that the transit authority had incurred major financial losses due to the pandemic.

But those other routes mean that transit users from Richmond now need to take multiple modes of transport, and, said Moraes, crowded trains and stations are a concern given COVID-19.

“There is always fear of contracting COVID,” said Moraes. “Is it too much to ask for one mode of transport, especially during this pandemic? I shudder to think how crowded the trains and stations will be come September.”

In a statement to the News, TransLink spokesperson Jill Drews said there are “good alternatives” that run all day and more frequently, for people travelling out to UBC from Richmond.

Customers travelling from Richmond are encouraged to take the Canada Line to Oakridge-41st Avenue Station and transfer to the R4 RapidBus, or to Broadway-City Hall Station and transfer to the 99 B-Line.

The provincial health officer has also “not advised of any increased risk brought about by making a transfer on transit,” said Drews.

She said that the 480 route remains suspended as it allows the transit authority to “put service where it’s needed most – on overcrowded routes.”

“We are working to manage our current service levels within our existing resources and will continue to monitor when and where customers need service.”

According to TransLink, even prior to the pandemic, the 480 hasn’t been a very busy route – for example, it ranked number 83 on the 2019 transit service performance review and was seeing an average of 4,060 weekly boardings.

In comparison, Drews said, the top 20 busiest routes had between 15,000 and 57,000 average weekday boardings.

Furthermore, while ridership is expected to continue to recover during the fall and into 2022, TransLink expects that some people who previously travelled on the Canada Line during peak hours will continue to work from home or use other modes of transport.

“We expect there will now be enough capacity on the Canada Line for customers who previously travelled on the 480,” added Drews. 

However, while the 480 route remains suspended for the time being, no permanent decisions have been made, she said, adding that TransLink will monitor ridership levels and make changes based on where service is needed.