Vancouver Bus Riders Union report on fare strike, 2005

Report from Vancouver fare strike organised by the Bus Riders Union. Over 5,000 people participated.

On January 14th, over 5,000 bus riders in Greater Vancouver engaged in collective direct action in the Bus Riders Union's first-ever fare strike. The Bus Riders Union called the fare strike to protest TransLink's latest fare increase.

The fare increase will steal $41 million from the pockets of bus riders over the next three years. TransLink is raising bus riders' fares while pouring money into the privatized RAV line that will benefit corporate interests at the expense of bus riders.

All day, BRU organizers, members, and volunteers leafleted busy transit centres encouraging bus riders to join the fare strike and speak out against the fare increase. BRU organizers also rode the buses telling bus riders at the fare box about the fare strike. Thousands of riders joined the collective action creating entire fare-free buses.

Throughout Greater Vancouver, from East Vancouver to Surrey to North Van, bus riders got on the bus and told the driver that they were with the Bus Riders Union fare strike and weren't paying their fare to protest the fare increase. One woman wrote to tell the BRU, "Thought you might like to know that on my bus ride home tonight, of the 22 people who boarded, seven said they were on strike and didn't pay." Many told their fellow riders not to pay and to join the fare strike.

Throughout the day, the fare strike spread like wild fire.

On the buses and in the streets, the fare strike sparked discussion as bus riders shared their experiences and opinions of the fare increase. After paying the fare increase for two weeks, bus riders were already noticing the effect on their budgets as they are forced to take money away from other necessities to pay for transit and make hard decisions about when they can afford to take the bus. Bus riders were inspired by the practice of a fare-free transit system where everybody has access and no one is turned away because they can’t pay.

TransLink is claiming that the fare strike had no effect. As the bus riders impacted by the fare increase and engaged in the direct action, we know that it was a success and a blow against TransLink. The Fare Strike was a success because:

1. Thousands of bus riders did not pay their fares on January 14th, hitting TransLink in the pocket book. TransLink lost thousands of dollars in revenue. This may be a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.7 billion committed to RAV, but it shows that bus riders can and will take economic action against TransLink.

2. By refusing to pay unaffordable fares, bus riders challenged user-pay and privatization, demanding a public transit system that is accessible for everyone who needs it. Bus riders demanded that TransLink get its priorities straight and put people before profits.

3. Bus riders took collective direct action in a time when we are facing attacks on all sides – when our cost of living is going up (rent, food, education) and our wages are going down. We took some power back into our own hands and showed TransLink that we will not take this attack sitting down. Bus riders are ready to organize and defend our rights.

The fare strike was a huge success and a sign of bus riders’ capacity for collective direct action to win a better transit system. This fare strike was only the beginning. The Bus Riders Union will continue to fight high fares through ongoing monthly fare strikes that will keep the pressure on TransLink and bring bus riders together to take action to defend our right to mobility and an accessible and affordable transit system.

We need to sustain this momentum as we continue to organize for More Buses and Lower Fares – we need you to get involved!

• If you aren’t already a member of the Bus Riders Union, call us about joining up.

• Get involved in the fight for More Buses and Lower Fares by coming to the next monthly orientation meeting on February 5th at 11am, at our office at #407 – 119 West Pender

• Drop by our office to chat with a BRU organizer and share your thoughts and experiences of public transit.

• Call the BRU about volunteering – there’s always work to do to advance the struggle for a better transit system and social justice for all!

Did you participate in the Fare Strike? Do you have a story to share? Call us or send us your stories about participating in the fare strike.

To get involved in the next fare strike and our ongoing campaign for More Buses and Lower Fares, contact the Bus Riders Union at 215-2775, email us at, or drop by our office at #407-119 West Pender St.