If you’re a transit commuter in Calgary, you may want to double check your bus route in the weeks to come.
Calgary Transit says the COVID-19 Omicron variant is spreading through the organization and impacting staffing levels.
Which in turn, has lead to some service changes.
Several routes had adjustments take effect Monday morning.
“We took a strategic careful approach to this,” Calgary Transit spokesperson Stephen Tauro told Global News. “We made cuts across the entire network. So on some routes, some customers may experience longer wait times.”
According to Calgary Transit, the rollbacks accounted for about 10 per cent of the service across the city.
Calgary Transit is currently operating at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic service levels, Tauro said.
The rise in COVID-19 cases has also impacted ridership, with just 30 per cent of the amount of user traffic seen before the pandemic.
“Our teams are watching closely and are available if things need to be adjusted,” Tauro said. “We have plans in place to adjust either way.”
Mike Mahar, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, said about 150 runs were cancelled as of mid-week last week when nearly 100 drivers called in sick — a first for Calgary Transit.
“The sick list is probably double what it would normally be and even 30 or 40 per cent higher than what it’s been at the highest point of the pandemic,” Mahar said.
Mahar added 450 transit workers were laid off during the pandemic because of low ridership, with many people working from home. He said many were never replaced.
“Because of COVID and some of the city policies that were implemented in the last two years, we’ve had attrition like never before.
“We had probably 125 people leave in 2021 and similar number in 2020. So they’re very short staffed.”
“They’ve been running on massive amounts of overtime every day of the week for well over a year. There’s no more wiggle room, there’s no more stretch.”
The cutbacks were a bump in the road for commuters on Monday, including Hugh Gilmore, who waited for his bus at Whitehorn Station before finding another ride to work.
“A few moments went by and we’re all checking Calgary Transit’s app, and it looked like the app had frozen — a phantom bus sitting there waiting for us, there was no bus on site,” Gilmore told Global News. “There was no signage to let us know of the difficulty with this particular bus route.”
Calgary Transit is advising users to check their routes for the most accurate and up-to-date schedules.
Ward 11 city councillor Kourtney Penner, who also chairs the Community Development Committee, said the focus for city officials is ensuring riders can get the information they need about service impacts.
We’re working with transit on how councillors can support that messaging and how city communication can support that messaging, how the technology that we use can support that messaging,” Penner said. “Looking at ways to make sure that we can reach transit users.”