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Patience is wearing thin for bus riders, says transit advocate

A spike in drivers calling in sick is at the heart of the transit woes, says one of the city's deputy CAOs
20160201 Guelph City Transit Bus KA
File photo. Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday

As rider frustration continues to mount after numerous late and dropped bus routes, deputy CAO Colleen Clack says Guelph Transit is working to find a fix.

At issue, said Clack, is a spike in operators calling in sick or cancelling overtime shifts.

"We understand that some of our riders are frustrated and I can completely appreciate why they are. People expect if they are waiting to ride a bus they want the bus to be there at the time it's supposed to be," said Clack.

Guelph Transit plans for an average number of operators to call in sick when scheduling shifts on any given day, she said.

A spike in sick calls by Transit operators is the cause of many of the late buses and dropped routes, said Clack.

"At this point we are just treating it as an unfortunate moment in time and we are working as best as we can. It obviously causes challenges," said Clack.

As a result, Clack said Guelph Transit has to scramble to phone off-duty operators on their call list and adjust the schedule to accommodate the dearth of drivers.

"It becomes a bit of a juggling act for the Transit team to see how many drivers we have and what spots might be empty. That might mean instead of running every 20 minutes on a route we might run every 30 minutes," said Clack.

Steve Petric, who sits on City Council's committee on Transit, said running buses every 30 minutes can cause a lot of headaches for riders.

“People miss connections and then get stuck downtown for 30 minutes, which has led to some people having a 90-minute ride," said Petric.

Last month's realignment of Guelph Transit routes was done under the existing budget, noted Petric, and to fix it he said it will take time and additional money.

"Transit knows that is an issue and they are going to address it, but it’s not going to come until it goes before council,” he said.

Petric said patience is wearing thin for some riders, but he notes that Transit is listening to the feedback they receive.

Clack said she recommends riders follow Guelph Transit on Facebook and Twitter for updates on late buses and dropped routes.

"It's new for us to be as open and transparent as we are about dropped runs. It's really common to drop runs in a transit system — it happens because of mechanical breakdowns, if a driver calls in sick, etcetera — and we never used to tell people. Now we're being really open about it and we go on Twitter and Facebook every time there is a dropped run and we tell people. That's a really good thing from my perspective," she said.

Petric adds that the Google Maps phone app is also useful for bus riders, as it offers real-time tracking of where your bus is at the moment so a user can see how much longer it is going to be.


Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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