Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc is promising to give Codiac Transpo riders an early Christmas present by waiving fares when the buses get back on the road in the next few weeks.
The five-month-long lockout ended on Friday when the union and the city finalized a new collective agreement. Once the ratification votes were finished, Codiac Transpo mechanics worked over the weekend to get buses ready so they can return to service as quickly as possible.
LeBlanc said the city will be offering Codiac Transpo users free rides in order to get people back on the buses and boost the public's confidence in the city's transit system following the lengthy lockout.
Although buses will be seen on the road over the next few weeks, Codiac Transpo advises they will be out of service as mechanics test and assess the fleet and will not be picking up any passengers.
Drivers will also receive training on the new routes during the week of Dec. 10, officials said.
The city and the union are still not saying when the buses will be back on the roads in greater Moncton.
But once the entire fleet is back on the road, the city’s mayor is committing to significant changes to the schedules and routes.
"What we are looking to do is to put more buses on the heavily used routes more frequently. We will be looking to have the buses arrive at the same place at the same time every hour," LeBlanc said.
"We will be looking to reduce the time necessary to wait when getting transfers and making a large number of the runs shorter."
Details of the redesigned service will be released "very soon," Codiac Transpo officials stated in a release.
George Turple, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1290, said it remains to be seen if the new changes will indeed improve service to the public.
But the union leader said he is optimistic about the changes.
"That is what I am hoping for, for the customer, is a better transit system on the road. Move them to where they need to go faster and get them to wherever they need to go in a better way," he said.
The union voted 91 per cent in favour of accepting the deal on Friday. Later in the afternoon, Moncton council voted unanimously in favour of the contract.
The 9.2-year collective agreement includes an average annual increase of 2.58 per cent.