A recent decision by BC Transit has some riders in the Capital Region feeling like they’ve been thrown under the bus.
Late last month, BC Transit decided to temporarily remove printed schedules at bus stops. The transit agency says the move is largely due to a labour shortage they’ve been facing that has resulted in frequent schedule adjustments, rendering printed schedules inaccurate at times.
As a result, customers are now expected to look up the schedules on their phone or mobile device, which has left some riders not too thrilled.
Adam Irwin-Gunn said the removal of the schedules is not just an inconvenience for him, but something he needs as a rider.
“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,” he explained.
“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,'” he continued.
Irwin-Gunn is not just concerned for himself.
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 as well by the change as well.
“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 said 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,” he continued.
He also said some riders have limited vision and mobility that prevent them from being able to scan the QR code.
“It’s not a bad thing necessarily to this digital schedule as an option, but when you just make that all there is, it’s really creating barriers that I think increase the gaps between people who are already disadvantaged in society,” Van Vloten said.
“The people who are already low-income, people with disabilities, seniors, they’re the ones being thrown under the bus, to use a relevant term.”
In an email statement, BC Transit said all printed schedules were temporarily removed from bus stops as of Nov. 29.
“Like many public-facing organizations, BC Transit continues to experience temporary labour shortages and anticipates some service disruptions,” said Lenore Kennedy, the company’s senior communications and public engagement advisor.
“This is resulting in the need to, at times, adjust schedules on short notice, and any printed materials would not provide the most accurate, up-to-date information. BC Transit understands the situation is frustrating and appreciates our customers’ patience during this time. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” she said.
But for riders like Irwin-Gunn, the apology isn’t enough.
“The schedule is like an essential need for the transportation of one,” he said.
He’s going to push for others to join him and call on the company to offer an alternative way to access the schedules.