Guelph Transit announced Tuesday that the current service levels are going to stay exactly the same for the foreseeable future. Since the start of the pandemic, buses have been running at a reduced service level, and even though school will be re-starting again in a few weeks, the City of Guelph will be keeping those services on the Saturday schedule indefinitely, while making some difficult decisions about staffing.
As of September 6, Guelph Transit will lay-off nine full-time operators and eight part-time operators while leaving 14 additional positions vacant. According to a City media release, the move is expected to save $685,000.
“We’re sorry we’re not able to keep these operators on our team. They stepped up during COVID-19 to help keep front-line workers working and get people to grocery stores and medical appointments. We are so grateful for their service to our community,” said DCAO of Public Services Colleen Clack in a statement.
Along with the lay-offs, the City is hoping to save over $246,000 in reduced maintenance and full costs. The current schedule will see a number of changes from the usual September schedule of increased Transit service, that will require fewer buses and trips. There will be no 10-minute service every weekday on the #99 Mainline, and all the specialty routes and schedules that service the University of Guelph will be cancelled too.
Less than 1,000 students are expected to be living in residence on campus, and almost all undergraduate courses will offered online in the fall semester.
Along with expected revenue of $272,000 from a new post-secondary pass being offered by the City, which will allow U of G students to ride the bus for four months for the price of $272 per semester, the hope is to make up just over $1.2 million of lost revenues between the lay-offs, cost savings on services, and the new bus pass. The loss of the U of G universal student bus pass has blown a hole worth $3.5 million in revenues for the fall semester alone.
If you’re thinking to yourself that it was announced last week that Guelph was getting $5.1 million in emergency funding from the Safe Restart Agreement for transit, you’re not wrong. However, Clack said in the media release that the City is thinking ahead, and initiating these changes out of prudence in case emergency funds don’t come in on an ongoing basis.
“While Provincial and Federal emergency funds do provide much-needed relief right now, they are not a sustainable revenue source. We don’t know when ridership will return to normal levels, and we still need to operate transit responsibly and efficiently,” Clack said. “With up to 60 per cent fewer riders, we simply don’t need to run as many buses as often.”
In more positive transit news, Metrolinx has announced that they will be restoring some regular service on all of their routes starting on September 5, including the Kitchener GO train line.
Starting after Labour Day long weekend, GO Transit will be running a train from Kitchener to Union Station every hour during the morning rush hour, leaving the Kitchener GO station at 5:39, 6:39, and 7:39 am on weekday mornings, and then running an evening train at 8:39 pm. Coming back to Kitchener from Toronto, those trains will depart Union at 3:34, 4:34, and 5:34 pm.
“The news will benefit an increasing number of customers returning to the transit system, as Ontario, and the world, adjusts to a new normal of movement and work,” said a Metrolinx blog post. “The service changes will provide more options for everyone from essential workers to tradespeople to those who work in downtown office buildings to get where they need to go more conveniently.”
All transit users are required to wear a mask on all GO buses and trains.