Old buses partially to blame for cancelled Saskatoon Transit routes

Watch above: suspension of some Saskatoon Transit routes makes going back to school a problem

SASKATOON – As thousands of University of Saskatchewan and high school students returned to class after the Labour Day long weekend, many had initially planned to get to and from school using Saskatoon Transit.

It’s a task which proved difficult thanks to service disruptions.

Seventy-nine buses are servicing Saskatoon as of Tuesday. The city says between 90 and 95 are needed.

All direct routes were cancelled Tuesday morning, forcing riders to take regular routes. Direct routes have commutes of 15 minutes while regular routes are around 40 minutes.

“It’s pretty stressful when you’re trying to figure out everything at the university and then just trying to get here and you already have a problem,” said a student waiting at the university transit pick-up location.

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Transit services running normally include:

  • Regular Routes
  • Dart Routes
  • College Park to St. Joseph High School Special
  • Caswell School Special
  • Access Transit

Transit services temporarily suspended or delayed include:

  • All High School Specials (with exception of College Park to St. Joseph)
  • Downtown Direct
  • University Direct
  • Extra buses during peak travel times for popular transit routes (ex. Route 80 – Kenderdine/City Centre)
  • The implementation of new routes will be delayed:
  • Route 26 (Clarence/University)
  • Express Routes for Parkridge, Willowgrove and Kenderdine Express

The suspension of routes is being blamed on a backlog of bus maintenance.

“The biggest single contributing factor to the situation is, we don’t have enough mechanics,” said Jeff Jorgenson, manager of the city’s transportation and utilities department.

With contract negotiations between the city and the Amalgamated Transit Union 615 (ATU 615) stalled , the city must advertise wages from the old 2012 contract, making it hard to attract journeymen mechanics.

ATU 615 represents approximately 400 transit workers.

According to union president Jim Yakubowski, workers want to make 95 per cent of the western Canadian average industry wage, which is $28.17.

The current offer would bring mechanics wages to $35.23 an hour by 2016, an annual salary of $77,000.

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“I’m disappointed that the city is casting the blame onto the union for the failure to come up with a collective agreement as the reason behind this,” said Yakubowski.

Both sides have been trying to negotiate a contract since the end of 2012.

The city also places some blame on the age of the fleet. On average, buses at Saskatoon Transit are 14.5 years old.

The standard set by the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) is 7.8 years.

Saskatoon has purchased additional buses to help with the backlog. Twelve buses, purchased from Calgary, are on the way with another eight expected to arrive in the coming weeks. All buses are 1993-1995 models which are currently in service in Calgary.

The city hopes to be running direct routes by mid-September.