STC offered taxi rides in place of 48 cancelled bus routes during budget closure

Taxi rides spanning hundreds of kilometres were offered to passengers on more than 40 cancelled bus routes after the Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down temporarily on Wednesday.

Some passengers travelled up to 240 kms by taxi

The cost to transport passengers by taxi after STC routes were cancelled Wednesday is not yet known. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Taxi rides spanning hundreds of kilometres were offered to passengers on more than 40 cancelled bus routes after the Saskatchewan Transportation Company shut down temporarily on Wednesday.

The service stopped operating temporarily Wednesday afternoon when the provincial government announced it was winding down the service as part of the provincial budget spending cuts. The government says the closure is expected to save roughly $17 million per year. 

A total of 34 bus routes were cancelled Wednesday afternoon and a further 14 were interrupted Thursday morning.

STC executive director of communications Candace Caswell said the service offered taxi rides to anyone whose bus was cancelled at any of the company's depots across the province.

Taxi cost still unknown

She said she does not yet know the number of passengers that accepted taxi rides, or how much the total cost would be.

"It is something common that we do because our goal is to make sure that our passengers get to their destination," said Caswell.

"In this case we ensured that we had taxis for everyone that we were aware of."  

Passengers were not offered refunds unless they decided not to travel by taxi.

Confusion involving 80-year-old woman

Mark Mazur's 80-year-old mother Julie was among those caught up in the STC closure.

She was due to travel about 240 kilometres from Regina to Canora, Sask. at 10 a.m. CST Thursday morning.

Mazur heard about the STC closure Wednesday afternoon and contacted the company to find out if his mom's bus was cancelled.

You have to treat people better.- Mark Mazur , son of 80-year-old woman affected 

Mazur was told the route was not affected so he dropped his mom off at the depot Thursday morning, expecting she would soon be on the bus on her way to Canora.

When he called her that night, he was told a very different story.

"The bus was not actually running, and they were putting people in taxi cabs," said Mazur.

Mazur said his mother initially got into the front seat of a taxi van with two other passengers in the back.

But Mazur said the van only travelled a short distance before pulling into a parking lot, where the passengers were transferred into a car.  

'Tense situation'

"It was unnerving, right," he said.

"She hadn't anticipated this to be happening and I guess these fellows in the back seat were arguing with each other. It was just a tense situation for an 80-year-old lady."

Mazur said his mom was told at the depot that she could take a cab home. But he said she was not informed that she would be sharing it with other passengers.

He said he would have made other arrangements for his mother's travel if he had known the bus was cancelled. 

Mazur understands that the government wanted to cut STC services to save money, but said services could have been reduced first.

"As far as today's incident, I mean, I don't know what happened there," he said.

"Did STC do something or who is responsible? But they have to realize there is people, like 80-year-old ladies, you have to treat people better."

STC response

Caswell from STC said concerned passengers who called Wednesday afternoon were told the company would "get them to their destination."

"I'm not sure if it was a misunderstanding in the conversation or how that unfolded," she said.

"But really we instructed our agents to make sure that if anyone called in that they knew that we could get them to their end destination."

Caswell said the schedules were halted Wednesday so the service would have time to meet with its staff about the looming STC shutdown. That interfered with some Thursday morning schedules, too, she said.

The STC closure leaves 224 people out of work and hundreds of communities in limbo.

Freight service will end May 19, and passenger service will stop May 31.

Ridership has declined markedly since its peak in the 1980s, according to government figures.