Some University of Saskatchewan students who take the city bus to school are feeling left behind.
A surge of students attending class in-person is causing some city bus routes to be full, forced to skip over those waiting.
“Make sure you’re going early and have a backup plan.” says Megan McConnell, a third-year health studies student at the university.
McConnell takes city transit to school. She says sometimes buses on her route have been so full, they’ll pass her by without stopping and has seen the same thing happen to her others as well.
“Anytime you try and get on in the Evergreen route you have to go early first of all, but also three stops before where you would usually get on because they’re not even completing their routes,” says McConnell.
“They get full and then they won’t pick you up anymore.” she adds.
Interim director of Saskatoon Transit, Mike Moellenbeck, says these delays and numbers is something the city typically sees every September, even prior to the pandemic.
“This is the first September since COVID where all classes are in person and there’s a large number of new riders who may never have experienced this happening before.”
He says Saskatoon Transit has noticed issues and heard the concern from some students, especially when it comes to the morning routes.
“What you would imagine is rush hour for vehicles, that’s rush hour for buses as well,” explains Moellenbeck.
Moellenbeck says the increased presence of students back on campus this year after the pandemic didn’t catch the city by surprise.
“When students move back to Saskatoon they don’t always move to the same areas where they had previously lived,” said Moellenbeck. “It takes us a little bit more time to adjust to where the bulk of students are living and, you know, match our capacity.”
University of Saskatchewan Student’s Union (USSN) vice-president resident of operations and finance, Lia Storey-Gamble, says the union has received concern on the issue from students.
“They are concerned about routes being full. They are concerned about where the routes are dropping them off. Those are the two major ones definitely,” says Storey-Gamble.
She adds communication between Saskatoon Transit and the USSN has been very open, understanding what factors are playing into this issue.
“We have seen an influx of students which is great for the University of Saskatchewan and the USSU, and it’s also great to see more students want to use transit now,” says Storey-Gamble.
“Transit, wanting this of course, is trying to work hard to make sure that all riders can be accommodated.”
McConnell believes reducing time in-between each bus would be beneficial.
“Having a bus in the Evergreen route run every 20 minutes instead of every 40 would be a big help,” explains McConnell.
Moellenbeck says right now every resource available is being used to combat the overflow of city transit.
“Look to maybe adjust travel times earlier or later. Have a look on our website, have a look on our transit app, give a call to customer service — they can help you out to determine if there’s a different trip that’ll help you get there.”
It’s an overflow McConnell hopes is over by the time the snow flies.
“In winter when everyone’s wearing big parkas and stuff, they’re going to be able to fit less people on the bus and then what’re you going to do? You can’t walk to school in minus-40,” says McConnell.
Moellenbeck says people should download the transit app, which can be checked for real-time service.