Transportation officials in the city where the Zika virus is spreading are asking for help from the public, as they try to find ways to avoid congestion in an era of low fares.
For the first time in Vancouver’s history, the city’s Transportation and Infrastructure committee is holding a public hearing Wednesday to examine the needs of transit users and businesses in the region and how they can best prepare for a possible outbreak.
The committee’s interim report, which was released Wednesday morning, calls for a more efficient transit system, as well as more frequent bus service.
“We know that we have an extremely high density of people in the City of Vancouver, which means there’s a high demand for transit,” said committee chair Michael Pate, who is also a Vancouver-based lawyer.
“There’s a real need to make sure we’re getting the best service possible.”
The city has the highest percentage of commuters who commute by car, with more than 1.5 million people riding the bus or train a day.
While many of them live in neighborhoods with low car ownership rates, that’s not always the case.
The city’s transportation department has proposed a $2.5-million fund to build a network of more than 40 bus stops in the downtown core and downtown Vancouver, and to build bus shelters and other shelter facilities.
The department has also recommended a $50 million pilot program to allow transit users to buy a monthly pass, and an increase in the price of a monthly bus pass to help pay for the cost of maintaining them.
The committee also recommended $50,000 to help with bus fares for residents of the city and region.
It also recommended the city establish a regional transportation advisory committee to advise the provincial government on how to deal with the virus, which is currently spreading rapidly throughout the region.
The Transportation and Emergency Management department is also reviewing how to best manage a possible surge in passengers, especially if the virus spreads quickly, said spokesman Chris Poynter.
Poynters also said the department is reviewing how it will operate during the outbreak, including how to manage crowds and crowding in the core of the cities main downtown area, as Vancouver and Vancouver Island are still relatively isolated.
The Vancouver city council is also planning to consider funding an $8.5 billion transportation bond, which would fund transit and transportation upgrades, Pate said.
Budget officials say the money would be used for improvements in the areas of public transit, and better coordination of local transportation needs.