BC Transit has issued a statement in response to recent backlash from riders after the organization opted to remove printed timetables at bus stops in Victoria.
On November 29, BC Transit removed all printed schedules from stops around the Victoria Regional Transit System and replaced them with a poster encouraging riders to check the organization’s website or app — much to the chagrin of passengers.
“It’s not accessible. And for me, as an individual with autism, I’m very schedule-oriented. And if that schedule gets taken away from me, I can’t see it, I become frustrated because I can’t process what’s happening,” said Adam Irwin-Gunn, adding that the removal of the schedules is not just an inconvenience for him, but something he needs as a rider.
“It literally feels like you’re just standing there in the middle of nowhere almost lost because you’re like, ‘I don’t know anything.’”
Irwin-Gunn’s reaction to the missing timetables was commonplace across BC Transit passengers, many of whom have been expressing their dissatisfaction with the decision on social media in recent days.
In a statement issued by BC Transit, the organization says that the removal is only temporary and was triggered mainly due to labour shortages.
“This is not a decision BC Transit made lightly, but the organization was in a tough position as we knew we could not achieve the previously set service levels through the month of December,” reads the statement from BC Transit.
BC Transit says that labour shortages have resulted in the organization having to adjust schedules on short notice, meaning the printed schedule may not provide accurate information.
While some have been frustrated by the missing timetables, others believe the move to be discriminatory.
Colby Harder, who researches transportation planning and equity at the University of Victoria’s geography department, said many other riders — including seniors and those living in poverty — are being impacted by the change for this reason.
“It seems like a giant step backwards,” said Harder, adding that the decision to move to QR codes only adds “another layer of complexity” that might make people more hesitant or just unwilling to ride the bus.
A disability advocate also told CHEK News that the switch is problematic as it requires technology not everyone has.
“People with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by poverty,” said Spencer van Vloten, the editor of BC Disability. “So, a lot of people with disabilities don’t even have a cell phone or they don’t have a data plan and they’re not even going to be able to scan these codes in the first place to get this information.”
In its statement issued on Monday, BC Transit acknowledged these concerns, suggesting that the organization was learning from the feedback it had received.
“We appreciate the feedback and can assure riders the intention was never to discriminate, however, the organization recognizes that this decision has caused additional barriers for some of our customers, and for that BC Transit apologizes,” said the statement.
“The feedback we’ve received will help inform our future decisions.”
BC Transit emphasizes that the decision to remove the timetables is a temporary solution for the month of December and states that the printed materials will return to bus stops in the new year.
“We expect to be in a better position in the new year for service stability and will return printed schedules to bus stops in January as soon as the new materials can be produced and installed,” says BC Transit.
“In the meantime, BC Transit can confirm the Riders Guide that was printed for this fall is still valid through to January.”
BC Transit says that riders who want to plan their trip in advance or request a printed copy of the Riders Guide may contact a Customer Service Agent at 250-382-6161, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays or holidays for the most up-to-date information.