Saskatoon Transit delays switch to digital detour notices
Bus Riders of Saskatoon say the change to online notifications could hurt low-income and senior riders
The City of Saskatoon has delayed a change in practice that would see physical detour notifications posted online instead, but city officials say when the change does happen it will be beneficial.
Saskatoon Transit had originally hoped to switch to notifications through its transit app by Oct. 1, 2019. However, transit advocacy group, Bus Riders of Saskatoon, say they've been told by Ward 6 Coun. Cynthia Block the transition has been delayed.
Group spokesperson Robert Clipperton said the delay is welcome news, because members plan to provide feedback to the city at an upcoming policy committee. The changes would have a negative effect on transit users, specifically low-income passengers and seniors, he said.
"If you don't have a smartphone. If you don't have data. If you didn't check that morning before you headed off … you will get to a stop and you'll have no idea the bus isn't going to stop there," said Clipperton.
He said while this may not be a big deal for individuals riding some of the busier bus routes, for routes where passengers are picked up less frequently, it's going to cause confusion.
"We're not ready to move to a paperless system for notifying the public that bus stops are not going to be used," he said.
Jim McDonald, director of Saskatoon Transit, said they haven't yet stopped posting physical signs.
McDonald said the purpose of the transition to digital is to get up-to-date information to transit users as quickly as possible. He also noted the app won't be the only way to get information, as the same updates go to the City of Saskatoon and Saskatoon Transit website.
Detours will also be posted on notice boards at the city's transit terminals, he said.
McDonald said that transit supervisors have had to travel the city manually posting detour notices, a job he said is taking up "more and more time." He said in some cases, the physical notice is removed or tampered with in minutes.
"There are other things that those supervisory staff I'd much rather have them doing," he said. "Like following up on customer complaints [and] doing ride-alongs with our operators to ensure their needs are being taken care of."
He said on some days two or three of the city's four transit supervisors will be travelling around posting or updating detour notices.
"That's a lot of manpower that could better be used to make sure the system is running smoothly," he said.
The delay will also allow members of the Bus Riders of Saskatoon to let their opinions be known at the standing policy committee meeting on transportation set for Oct. 7.