The Saskatoon transit system is failing its riders

By in Opinions

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.

Public transit is essential for university students.

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.

Meagan Kernaghan

Photo: Jessa Robb

  • Cass

    This is a pretty unfortunate stance to take against such an integral part of our society. The tone here isn’t looking to make change, it’s quite negative and in my opinion harmful. “Complain every time something goes wrong involving a city bus or bus worker”? How about thank the people that preform an important service, and look to work together to fix an imperfect system? There’s nothing wrong with pointing out flaws- there’s something wrong with creating a divide.

  • Mason

    This is a very relatable piece. I agree with the author and do believe that complaining in a constructive way is a method of action that will aid in change. Ensuring the people in management are notified of issues will aid in proper steps being taken to make a better functioning transit union.

    • Craig

      This is half right. There needs to be a much better working relationship between Transit management (City) and the union (drivers). No one seems to get along here, which may also be why they are again without a contract.

  • Wajih

    I can relate with most part of this article. Just sent a request to Saskatoon transit about their bus arriving early and leaving early at my stops. Happens all the time with bus number 82. Hope it gets fixed.

    • Barry Countway

      It is impossible for a bus to be at a stop at the exact time. They are allowed to be three minutes early or five minutes late. Too many factors such as traffic, weather, passenger loads, other buses on same route, the driver can’t control. The driver is only obligated to be at the major transfer points, downtown terminal, malls, Place Riel, on time and leave on time. Sometimes that doesn’t happen either. It is the obligation of the rider to show up five minutes early at any stop. As for Place Riel, if the 82, is leaving, then it is on time, and has to get to the mall to meet other buses, so those passengers are not inconvenianced.

    • Wajih

      What if they arrive 10 minutes early and leave? I am not blaming the drivers or the transit. I just requested them to have a look into it. It does not happen with other routes but 82 is an exception. I dont think anyone of us will complain if the bus is 5 minutes late. But leaving earlier than their scheduled time is not acceptable in my opinion.

  • Anna

    The article is poorly researched. Yes there are issues but blaming the drivers isn’t the answer. The drivers are regularly threatened physically. Assaulted verbally and sometimes sexually by passengers. Not all sick time is due to physical illness. Sometimes the drivers need a mental health day.
    As to scheduling issues. It sucks. And yes please point out the deficiencies but go after planning not the drivers. The drivers have time and again brought the timing and route issues to the city and been sent away.

    And I’ll repeat this for those who missed it. Stop blaming the drivers! But please do let the city know there is issues. You want it fixed. Be the voice. Because the drivers aren’t listened to.

  • Bilal

    Many routes now run every 20 minutes during the day. They’ve also added GPS on the buses so you can track how far away the bus is from your stop before you stand outside in the cold. It simply does not make any economical sense for the buses to be running more frequently after 7pm when the ridership is so low during that time. Saskatoon Transit isn’t perfect but it is seeking to improve. In any sense, the problems that this article presents aren’t looking at the realities of our transit system and do not add to the discussion. Some real problems I see are the lack of sheltered bus stops (which for our cold winters are really important), the need for bus lanes in the city, and keeping our buses clean. Lets focus on the real problems where we can make real solutions to make more people use the bus rather than just spreading negativity and keeping people away from the buses.

  • Brad Trust

    what a petulant article

  • BOO

    The people of saskatoon are not qualified to drive the bussess. The peopel of saskatchewan are not qualified to drive buses. Most people here are lazy, druggies, homeless, crack addicts etc. This is why they are hiring people from india to drive the bus. The come on time, do not take time off, and are not prone to be druggies like the inhabitants of this country.