Saskatoon Transit is failing to provide the essential service it has been tasked with. Absenteeism is rampant, routes and times are arbitrary, and the transit union has not made significant changes to improve this broken system.
Absenteeism within the transit union in Saskatoon has become so commonplace that the city even hired an outside contractor, Bridges Health, in 2016 to mediate the issue. Exposure to viruses and contagious illnesses is named as a main cause for the absenteeism of Saskatoon Transit employees.
Transit system employees, I would argue, really do not deal with any more exposure to people than those in other professions. Anyone working in customer service, retail, health care or education — to name a few careers — is constantly interacting with the general public, with arguably more frequent physical interaction than simply sitting near them on a bus.
This does bring up an important question. If buses are so full of illness that drivers are sick more than any other professionals, are they safe to ride regularly? Either buses are unsafe, or bus drivers are not always sick when they call in.
Public transit needs to be a viable option. Many bus routes in Saskatoon don’t start until 5:30 a.m. and slow their service to once an hour at 7 p.m. At 12:30 a.m., buses stop running completely. At it’s best, a bus running once an hour is still only marginally better than no bus at all.
Additionally, in a province where drinking and driving is a huge issue, would it not make sense to have accessible, late-night, public-transit routes to combat this problem?
It is infuriating that, as an individual who relies on public transit, I cannot take the bus to and from school reliably because of overcrowded buses, buses that do not run on time and the fact that, after 7 p.m., the bus only runs once an hour.
My aim with this article is to raise awareness of the issues within our public transit system as well as to encourage you to speak up when something goes wrong.
I urge you to complain every time something goes wrong involving a city bus or bus worker. Leave the transit union a message at transit.saskatoon.ca/feedback. Call Charlie Clark’s office at 306-975-3202, and help him understand the scope of the problems within our transit system. Call your city councillor. Public transit is an essential service, so speak up and speak out. Nothing ever changes without your drive to make it so.
Photo: Jessa Robb