Saskatoon Transit says it has plan to fix broken-down buses
Transit says cold weather, lack of parts caused 24 buses to break down last week
A recent wave of bus breakdowns will hopefully be over soon, according to Saskatoon Transit.
On Wednesday, transit manager Jim McDonald announced a new plan to keep as many buses on the road as possible. Cold weather and an intense shortage of spare parts has meant a number of breakdowns, which means bus riders having to deal with long wait-times.
"We are catching up," said McDonald.
"We had a fairly large shipment of parts that came in yesterday and we have now sourced some replacement engines. So, it's a matter of getting those parts put into the buses and we'll have those back on the road."
Transit said that 27 of its buses were out of service on Friday, leading to cancellations on many routes that lasted for days. In a normal year, McDonald said transit has an average of five buses out of service on any given day.
At a city council meeting this week, McDonald was asked pointed questions about route cancellations and what was being done to solve the problem.
McDonald said spare parts have been very difficult to source lately, fuelled mainly by supply chain issues. The parts issues, combined with more weather-related breakdowns have meant more buses have been pulled off the road.
He said transit staff are doing their best to deal with the situation.
"Our staff don't like to have things not working as well as they should," he said.
"They're doing incredibly well under the circumstances and our people are doing an extremely good job of rolling with the punches."
Apart from the new arrival of spare parts, transit said it's sending more buses to private garages to speed up repairs. As well, buses with issues that don't include heating, steering and brakes are being put back on the road quicker.
The breakdowns have seriously inconvenienced people who rely on the bus. According to advocacy group Bus Riders of Saskatoon, many people have had to wait in the cold for long periods of time to catch their bus.
McDonald acknowledged that the city's aging bus fleet is not helping the situation. McDonald said the last time the city bought new buses was in 2019 and this year, the average age of buses will creep up to around nine-and-a-half years.
"That is a significant issue," he said.
"Not having newer buses coming into the fleet that actually does pose a fairly significant issue."
While the City of Saskatoon has been in discussion with the provincial and federal government on creating a bus rapid transit system that would require the purchase of new buses, no formal talks have started yet.
Meanwhile, Saskatoon Transit asked bus riders to check for service alerts at least an hour before they travel. As well, they're being asked to check the transit app, which is regularly updated with service disruption information.