TransLink plans to run SkyTrain less frequently on weekends and the provincial audit suggested one to two minute delays to service at off-peak times of weekdays as well.

SkyTrain service cuts opposed by riders

Group fighting longer rapid transit line waits at off-peak times, weekends

SkyTrain frequency should not be cut to save money for cash-strapped TransLink.

That’s the message a group of transit users are sending as they try to overturn planned service reductions.

TransLink’s 2013 base plan would run trains less often on weekends on the Expo and Millennium lines, saving $500,000.

And the new provincial audit of TransLink recommends also reducing the frequency of weekday trains by one to two minutes at off-peak times to cut another $1.1 million.

“It’s going to feel like rush hour all day long,” predicts SkyTrain For Surrey organizer Daryl Dela Cruz. “We have to question whether this is defensible at all.”

He predicts Expo trains running to and from Surrey will run every eight minutes instead of every six at off-peak times of the day and every 10 minutes instead of eight later at night.

Given growing transit demand in Metro Vancouver, he said it would be “irresponsible” to cut frequency on the backbone of the transit system, deterring riders from using it.

He said it could also make it harder for passengers to connect from SkyTrain to infrequent suburban buses, possibly leaving them with much longer waits at those bus stops if they miss a bus.

Dela Cruz said it makes even less sense since the SkyTrain cuts deliver only 0.5 per cent of the savings laid out in TransLink’s plan.

If fewer people take SkyTrain, he added, the presumed savings could shrink further.

Businesses who depend on customers and patrons arriving by SkyTrain may also lose money, he suggested.

About half of the $98 million in annual efficiencies spelled out in the new base plan come from further cost cutting – mostly in bus operations and maintenance – with the rest coming from revenue gains.

TransLink is to finalize the plan in November after the independent TransLink Commissioner scrutinizes it.

Further cuts could come next year if area mayors rescind a $30-million property tax hike assumed in the plan and no replacement source is approved by the province.

TransLink has not yet indicated which of the cuts recommended through the audit it might pursue.