July 29, 2014 6:40 pm

Saskatoon Transit riders stranded, mechanic shortage blamed

Watch above: Saskatoon transit routes cancelled over shortage of mechanics

SASKATOON – Saskatoon Transit riders who take Montgomery Place route 22, or Downtown direct 1 from Lakeview were left stranded Tuesday. Routes were cancelled between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. during that crucial morning commute for local riders.

Manager of Saskatoon Transit Bob Howe is apologetic for the inconvenience, estimating about 50 people would have been waiting for a bus which never showed. By noon, 14 people had called in to express their concern.

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On Tuesday morning, seven buses from the fleet were in the shop. The City of Saskatoon has 19 mechanics and couldn’t complete repairs on time. The crew is currently short staffed.

“We’ve had vacancies for three mechanics for quite some time now which we’re trying to fill,” said Howe.

The city pays heavy duty mechanics a starting wage of $36 to $38 per hour. With the mining industry booming, Howe said it’s hard to compete with the private sector.

Regina Transit is experiencing the same problem, forcing the cancellation of routes in the winter  of 2013.

The owner of A-1 Truck & Trailer Repair, Doug Haugen, said supply isn’t meeting demand. On Tuesday afternoon, his shop was full of semis and trailers with a line waiting to get into the bay.

Haugen wants to expand but said it’s too risky with a shortage of workers in the trade.

At SIAST Kelsey campus, provost and vice president of academics Anne Neufeld knows there’s a need for more heavy duty mechanics.

All 52 seats for the fall program are full and 48 people are on the wait list, according to Neufeld. She said adding more spots would require additional shop space at the college and approval from the province’s accreditation program.

At Saskatoon’s bus barns on 24th Street, several buses remained on hoists and under repair Tuesday afternoon. Flat tires, broken air conditioners, engine and transmission problems are all to blame for the morning cancellations.

Howe also admits the city’s fleet is old which can contribute to breakdowns. The median age of the fleet is 14 years old, while the industry standard is 12.

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