Buses in Metro Vancouver need winter tires

Safety shouldn’t come as a second priority

Art by @RESLUS

Art by @RESLUS

When winter rolls around in Metro Vancouver, it’s a hit or miss if people will experience bus delays, overcrowding, or cancellations in service altogether. 

In addition to these problems, buses during winter weather drastically slip and slide on the roads and either crash or almost crash into cars. This has become an increasing problem as it happens in Metro Vancouver almost every time it snows. 

Passengers in Metro Vancouver have seen or experienced being in a slippery bus or it crashing into a car, like when it snowed up to 30 cm in December and in January when it snowed less than five cm. Drivers should have the best equipment on their vehicles and passengers shouldn’t have to jeopardize their safety, no matter how much it snows. 

According to TransLink’s website, they use all-weather tires that are recommended by their tire manufacturer as they “provide the best traction possible in the sort of conditions [they] typically see during winter — wet snow.” 

By using all-weather tires for their buses, TransLink still runs into the issue of slipping and sliding on roads. Although it may be costly to constantly change to winter tires once a year, it should become a yearly practice as too many buses are experiencing accidents and it is unsafe for passengers. 

According to an article by the Vancouver Sun, TransLink says snow tires don’t perform as well when buses turn and brake on wet pavement. However, buses still run into the issue of having trouble turning when it snows and we have seen this happen almost every time it snows throughout the region. 

The article also stated that TransLink said “switching out 10,000 tires on our buses for those few days a year, taking into account the storage, labour and maintenance costs, would be significant,” as another reason why they don’t switch to winter tires. 

While it may not snow that often in Metro Vancouver, it is not worth the safety risk. People shouldn’t have to feel they can’t rely on transit when it snows and have to use other transportation routes like a ride from a friend or ordering an Uber. 

Driving through the conditions of snow isn’t easy, especially in Metro Vancouver. Many cities have steep streets and with the snow, ice, or slush it can be hard to drive through. 

From my experience taking transit in St. Catharines, Ontario, buses were still able to arrive on time when it did snow, and usually the winters are worse there with more snow and icy roads. While it is a smaller city with flatter roads, it does demonstrate it is achievable to have a more efficient transit system during the winter months. 

There were less issues in St. Catharines’ transit system because the plows would come onto the roads early in the morning, which would make roads clear and the buses would be able to drive through the city efficiently throughout the day. 

When it snows in Metro Vancouver, the plows often get stuck or arrive at various times throughout the day. In Surrey, the city follows a three level priority system to plow the streets. Priority one covers high volume streets, priority two covers secondary roads within residential areas and access roads to long term care facilities, and priority three covers areas that are more difficult, such as hill areas and other “identified problem locations,” according to their website

The snow plow tracker on their website shows many streets in Surrey coloured in orange, which indicates snow was plowed over 12-hours ago and is seen as a last priority. The city should shift their focus to put more streets as higher priority for smoother bus commutes, ensuring the safety of both passengers and drivers. 

Overall, there should be winter tires on TransLink buses. Everyone plays a part in helping improve the roads, and the snow plows coming onto the roads earlier in the day can help drastically.