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'Such disorganization,' woman says of snowy Metro Vancouver bus commute

Like others in Metro Vancouver, Lucinda Kunkel's commute home Thursday was anything but smooth. It included being told to board an out-of-service bus.
The snowy Vancouver weather caused significant problems for commuters using TransLink buses in January 2024.

A Metro Vancouverite says her commute was over three times what it typically is during the week due to snowy conditions and poor communication by TransLink.

Lucinda Kunkel regularly travels between downtown Vancouver and her home on Capitol Hill in Burnaby. On a good day, the commute only takes about half an hour. If traffic is bad, it might take an extra 15 minutes. 

On Thursday, Jan. 11, it took the frustrated local over three hours to make it to her front door after she left work. 

"I wasn't expecting anything to happen," she told V.I.A., noting that there was no communication online from TransLink. While a winter weather message was shared, she didn't see any cancellations on her route.

While she was dressed warmly and able to walk part of the way home on her commute, numerous people who were waiting with her in the subzero temperatures were not prepared for the weather. She noticed several young children, babies, and elderly people waiting with her, too.  

"I (and many others including a baby) waited for the R5 heading east on Hastings [at] Abbot from 5:35 p.m. for almost an hour. With no R5 bus in sight, I finally spoke to another driver as there was no communication online and I couldn’t get through to anyone on the TransLink phone line."

The driver told her that black ice was likely the reason the buses weren't coming but that he wasn’t getting any communication if the double buses would start to operate either.

'I [have] never experienced such disorganization'

A single bus (not a double-decker one) came at 6:30 p.m. By that time, dozens of people were waiting in the cold, and so many of them were unable to board due to not enough room. The bus took them to Boundary where there was another R5 bus waiting. They were told to get on — but it wasn't in service.

"The TransLink employee said there was no driver for this bus. We were told to wait for another bus," she said, adding they waited inside the bus with no driver to stay warm.

Kunkel elected to walk home after waiting for 15 minutes. She arrived home at 8:30 p.m. 

"I [have] never experienced such disorganization. TransLink did not seem prepared, did not communicate well and the streets' black ice was not taken care of at all by the city," she said, adding that she feels the transit strike has affected operations, despite TransLink saying otherwise.

Spokesperson Thor Diakow told V.I.A. that TransLink does everything it can to keep transit moving but it was met with "challenging road conditions around the region" and buses are "only as good as the roads they drive on."

In some cases, roads were icy and unsalted and several R5 RapidBuses were stuck on Hastings Street near Highway 1; this caused some delays on that route.

"There was heavy congestion due to motor vehicle incidents, which also delayed buses — as they were stuck in traffic. In some cases, delays were also caused by other vehicles sliding into our buses," he added.

"Our operations teams are in constant communication with municipalities to identify areas that need clearing. Many of our buses were having the same issues as cars in the icy conditions yesterday."

Locals were met with a blast of bone-chilling air as strong winds began blowing fresh snowfall late Thursday afternoon. The wintry Vancouver weather slowed traffic to a halt in many places, including several major highways. 

Road conditions improved Friday but are still dangerous in many places due to ice. Ensure you have appropriate tires and do not drive if you don't. 

Customers can plan their commute by using Trip Planner and stay up to date by signing up for Transit Alerts, following TransLink on X (Twitter) @TransLink, or calling customer service at 604-953-3333.