An intense blast of winter-like weather that hit Calgary overnight Monday has Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 583 looking for relief for its bus drivers.
“At times, it’s very difficult to drive,” said ATU vice-president Neil McKinnon. “Buses are not the greatest things in snow and ice, as we’ve seen.”
On Tuesday, several Calgary Transit buses were left slipping and sliding, unable to drive up hills or navigate corners in the thick, wet snow, leading to long delays.
McKinnon said he’s received dozens of messages from frustrated bus drivers since the snow started to fall.
He now hopes this weather event will prompt the city to look at its budget and see if snow tires or tow trucks for city buses could be introduced.
“I know transit did a study a few years ago on articulated buses and found snow tires made little difference, but I don’t think a test has been done on a regular 40-foot bus,” he said.
Articulated buses are described as having a pivoting joint that join two sections.
McKinnon also pointed out that transit drivers can be left waiting for several hours, along with other Calgarians, as tow truck drivers scramble to get vehicles out of ditches.
“Many, many years ago, we had our own tow trucks but that got privatized, that got outsourced.”
Ward 12 councillor, Shane Keating, who is also the chair of the city’s Transportation and Transit committee, said he’s wary of increasing spending on a worst-case scenario.
“The budget right now is about $1.2 million annually to outfit the buses with tires, so we would have to more than double that because we’re looking at two sets of tires,” Keating said.
“We could have our own tow trucks, but then they could be sitting idle and what do we do with that cost?”
“I think for the general operations, the current technology is right,” Doug Morgan, director of Calgary Transit, said.
“Of course, we’re always looking to see if there’s other innovations to improve our reliability.”
Keating said despite his reluctance to look at more spending, he has his own questions surrounding the effectiveness of winter tires and transit bus inspections and plans to raise them at the next council meeting on Tuesday.