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City of Saskatoon looks to remedy transit disruptions by replacing current bus fleet

The City of Saskatoon looks into options to replace the aging bus fleet. This will hopefully lead to fewer route disruptions and cancellations. File / Global News

The City of Saskatoon is considering plans to implement a proper funding strategy and renew the aging bus fleet.

The City of Saskatoon fleet currently includes 134 buses. The average age is 10.1 years with the newest buses being purchased in 2019.

By these standards, the Saskatoon Transit fleet is lagging relative to its asset management plan and its peers.

Transit mismanagement and poor maintenance of the Saskatoon bus fleet caused consistent disruptions and cancellations to city bus routes last year.

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Darcy Pederson, president/business agent with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 615, said the concern over bus shortages was raised to Saskatoon Transit and city council in August 2021.

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“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.”

City Council reports have been released outlined with actions to change current management, fill open positions, and streamline regular maintenance.

“It just solidifies what we have been saying,” said Pederson. “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.”

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In a recent city council report, three different strategies have been created to improve Saskatoon city transit. Administration recommended implementing the most robust plan, as it will attempt to fully address transit issues.

“We would be leveraging all available federal funding for transit fleet renewal,” said Terry Schmidt, General Manager of Transportation and Construction for the City of Saskatoon.

“It’s a good balanced approach as well for zero emission vehicles. We are looking at bringing in numerous zero emission buses through the ten-year strategy as well, so we would bring in that technology.”

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“If it is approved, we will be moving immediately on going to market for those eight buses and excited about the long-term strategy being approved so that we can continue to pursue the federal programs for those funds and we will be anxiously awaiting the outcome of the requests from the federal government on contributing and being a partner with us and renewing the fleet here in Saskatoon Transit.”

The plan will not increase the number of buses in the city. Rather, it will replace some of the 20-year-old buses that are currently running with 865,000 to 1.26 million kilometres on the odometer.

The city hopes that the plan would bring the average age of the fleet to about seven years, with no buses over the age of 15 years by 2029.

If approved, it will result in a $102.5-million investment in Transit Replacement from 2023 to 2031. It will be brought to City Council on November 21.

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