During the winter of 2021-2022, the City of Saskatoon transit services experienced significant bus route disruptions which they claimed to be a result of extreme weather conditions and a global shortage of bus parts.
However, recent reports point to transit mismanagement being to blame for service delays.
The disruptions sparked an investigation by the city’s internal auditor into transit bus operations last winter.
The investigation discovered inadequate staffing at parts stores, ineffective inventory management, lack of stakeholder engagement for transit and an ineffective preventative maintenance program. During the last two years, 60 per cent of buses did not receive preventative maintenance care, resulting in more breakdowns during the 2021-2022 winter.
A Saskatoon citizen describes experiencing at least half an hour delays and sometimes, last-minute cancellation notices were sent out.
“It’s pretty frustrating. I’m someone who busses to work every day and it really affected me. There were times where I was late to work. Just in the extreme Saskatchewan cold, you know, it’s difficult. Very disappointing to hear,” said Angela Okotinsky.
“Hopefully it’s taken seriously, and solutions are reached because it’s something that I’ve been dreading happening again this year.”
Darcy Pederson, President Business Agent Local 615, said the concern of bus shortages was raised to Saskatoon Transit and city council back in August 2021.
“We knew that we were going to be in a situation where there was going to be bus cancellations and interruptions because at the time in August 2021, we were already cancelling the odd extra during the lowest service levels that we put out in the summertime,” Pederson said.
“It just solidifies what we have been saying. I think transit and transit administration, management and city council have to move on this report and rectify the situation because I can tell you right now that we have made a lot of improvements since the departure of the previous director, but I can tell you that there will be bus cancellations and interruptions this winter.”
Pederson said that it takes a year and a half to get a new bus and no new buses will be seen this year.
The City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Transit have been working to remedy this situation.
Journeyperson mechanic positions have been filled with more recruitment planned, transit management and structure has changed, and record-keeping and data analysis have improved.
So far, these changes have brought positive change for Saskatoon Transit. For example, in March 2022, Saskatoon had 20-25 buses waiting on parts whereas today there is usually four to seven buses waiting on parts at a time.