TransLink is planning to hire 470 new drivers by the end of 2017 as part of the first phase of improvements in its 10-year regional transportation plan.
The new hires – 144 bus drivers and 26 shuttle drivers –will be on the road by April, with the remaining 314 bus drivers and 156 shuttle drivers ready to roll by the end of the year. (Shuttles are smaller-size buses).
This will be TransLink’s single largest hiring drive since the 2010 Olympics.
While the recruitment blitz is is part of Phase One of TransLink’s transportation plan, an aging Baby Boomer population is also a factor. With 50 per cent of the current bus drivers aged 50 years or older, the idea is to begin preparing for large numbers of employees planning to retire over the next few years.
As part of TransLink’s expansion, more buses will be added to overcrowded routes and new routes will be created.
The south-of-Fraser region will see an additional 56,000 service hours and by the end of the year. Areas such as Clayton Heights and Morgan Creek will begin to see additional service.
In order to accommodate the rush of new drivers, TransLink will be bringing in 171 new buses beginning early next year, with funding coming from the federal gas tax.
“The bus service improvements will start in April and they’ll be rolled out more or less in succession consistently every three months thereafter over the next three years,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “The first priority is putting additional buses and additional frequency on overcrowded routes.”
In order to immediately increase service, TransLink plans to keep some of the existing buses in service slightly longer than usual as a short-term bridge until the new buses hit the roads.
“TransLink generally keeps its buses anywhere from 14-18 years, and I’m pretty confident that (the maintenance department) will be able to keep those buses on the road so we can provide relief to our customers,” Desmond said.
With the Surrey-Langley LRT (L-Line), TransLink now has the funding to do all the engineering and design work, which should be finished by 2018.
“While approval of Phase One is worth celebrating, it is only the first step in delivering the transportation solutions our region needs,” said Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, vice-chair of the Mayors’ Council. “Funding commitments from the provincial and federal governments must be secured for Phase Two in order to keep critically important projects like the Surrey-Langley LRT and Broadway extension on track.”
As Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority responsible for transit throughout the region, TransLink currently employs more than 3,500 operators.