Saskatoon

Saskatoon Transit says labour unrest, route changes hurt ridership numbers

Saskatoon Transit Director Jim McDonald says the best weapon against stagnant ridership numbers is communication.

Annual report shows roughly stagnant numbers in 2016

Saskatoon Transit's ridership numbers were stagnant in 2016. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Saskatoon Transit director Jim McDonald says the best weapon against stagnant ridership numbers is communication.

There's been a lot of upheaval in Saskatoon Transit over the past few years.- Jim McDonald, director, Saskatoon Transit

A report heading to Saskatoon city councillors shows transit numbers stayed roughly static last year. Numbers from electronic fareboxes showed a rough decrease of 57,000 rides from the previous year, while ridership calculated from monthly passes was up by roughly one per cent.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning, McDonald said labour unrest could have led to the decline in ridership. In November, the city's transit union issued a work-to-rule order and an overtime ban. By the next month, the union had settled with the city.

"There's been a lot of upheaval in Saskatoon Transit over the past few years," he said. "I think we're seeing our way clear of that, signing with our union a contract in December of last year."

However, even with a new contract in hand, McDonald said it's vital that trust be rebuilt within the transit system, and to rebuild its relationship with riders.

McDonald said Saskatoon Transit meets monthly with Bus Riders of Saskatoon, "to try and engage with what's going on, to get their ground-level truth."

Route changes led to customer complaints

Other than labour issues, McDonald said there have also been major changes to the system's route structure, eliminating some routes and adding others. He said that was the main factor behind an increase in customer complaints.

"We changed almost every route that Saskatoon Transit ran," he said. "When there's change that happens, people provide their feedback."

While McDonald said that there were no plans to raise fares this year or in 2018, the transit system is working on a fare review, which should go before councillors in August.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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