Provin­cial boost needed for Ed­mon­ton tran­sit: union

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - DUSTIN COOK

ED­MON­TON The city’s tran­sit union is warn­ing of overcrowdi­ng on Ed­mon­ton’s buses as COVID-19 re­stric­tions are fur­ther re­laxed and sev­eral busi­nesses be­gin re­open­ing, while re­duced bus ser­vice re­mains in place.

Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 569 pres­i­dent Steve Brad­shaw said rid­er­ship has ramped up 86 per cent from the low­est lev­els dur­ing the pan­demic and some buses are packed as the city op­er­ates on an en­hanced Satur­day sched­ule with lim­ited night ser­vice. About 450 tran­sit op­er­a­tors were laid off in April as a cost sav­ings mea­sure, with the city fac­ing a $10-mil­lion monthly loss in tran­sit rev­enues with free ser­vice.

Recre­ation fa­cil­i­ties, the­atres and casi­nos were among sev­eral services given the green light to re­open Fri­day un­der the prov­ince’s Stage 2 of re­launch, which Brad­shaw said will con­trib­ute to in­creased rid­er­ship.

“We are al­ready see­ing overcrowdi­ng on some routes at some times of day so we need to get more buses on the road, get those peo­ple off of their lay­offs and get them back be­hind the wheel. When rid­er­ship starts to ramp up and you don’t have enough buses out there, then you are go­ing to have overcrowdi­ng on the buses.”

Rec­og­niz­ing the city’s eco­nomic chal­lenges, Brad­shaw said he is join­ing the city’s call to se­nior lev­els of gov­ern­ment for fi­nan­cial sup­port for the ser­vice to re­turn to reg­u­lar op­er­a­tions. Coun­cil­lors heard Thurs­day the city will con­tinue to track rid­er­ship in­creases and will pro­vide a fur­ther re­launch update in early July.

“The big thing is to get the fund­ing in place so we can op­er­ate the sys­tem prop­erly,” Brad­shaw said. “The bot­tom line is, the trans­porta­tion ser­vice you have come to ex­pect is avail­able to be pro­vided if we get the bud­get in place to do it.”

When fares are re­in­stated Mon­day, the city will be dis­tribut­ing 500,000 masks pro­vided by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment at four main tran­sit cen­tres and three LRT sta­tions. Rid­ers will be re­quired to board at the front of the bus and also ob­tain a trans­fer from driv­ers if pay­ing by cash or ticket.

The union was ini­tially ad­vo­cat­ing for the city to make masks manda­tory for rid­ers, but Brad­shaw ad­mit­ted it would be dif­fi­cult for driv­ers to en­sure com­pli­ance.

“We ap­pre­ci­ate the sys­tem’s ef­fort to en­cour­age the use of masks, but we’ve stopped short of ex­pect­ing them to man­date it and the rea­son for that is it would be al­most im­pos­si­ble to en­force,” he said. “We don’t want op­er­a­tors to en­force that as it sets us up for con­fronta­tions like crazy.”

Mean­while, nine Ed­mon­ton-re­gion mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have ap­plied to the prov­ince for the es­tab­lish­ment of a re­gional tran­sit ser­vice. Once op­er­a­tional, the new ser­vice com­mis­sion is ex­pected to save about 600 ser­vice hours per week and $2.2 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

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