Dear Saskatoon city and Transit: please make up and be friends again…

Or, if not friends, at least find a workable compromise and get the buses running again.

I’m glad we forked out for a better car this year. I can’t imagine trying to do all this running around from job to school to job to home to babysitter with the car we had before, which was on the verge of crapping out. At least we have a car. Others are not so lucky and it’s costly and frustrating to work around this.

The transit lockout has left Saskatoon’s Oskayak High School to hire its own bus service in order to get students to class.

During the first school week without buses, only one-third of the student population was able to make it to school.

“I heavily rely on the transit system because I have school, I go to work, and I have dance practices to go to and that’s not happening,” Grade 12 student Heaven Adams said.

“It makes it a lot harder. It’s a lot harder to find rides or I spend a huge amount of money on cabs and it’s just ridiculous.”

Adams, along with all of the school’s 315 students, uses city transit to get to classes.

Today’s adventure:

The Man drove me to work early so he could drive downtown to get the Little Man and take him to school. He and his mother have been stuck walking for an hour every morning but yesterday mom’s chronic back issues were acting up and she apparently had no way to get him there so he missed the whole day. (This is not the first time he’s missed, either, but that’s another issue — had she just asked on Sunday, we could have gone over there to get him Monday morning! I also kick myself for not thinking to suggest that. Poor kid’s gonna fall so far behind and it’s French immersion, too.)

So, the Man picked up the Little Man, drove him to school, then the Man drove back to my workplace so I could drive him to his workplace and drive back to mine. We didn’t have to pick up the Little Man in the afternoon, but I drove home so I could get a few things done and get supper started and then I’m back in the car to get the Man when his shift is done.

The city is into its second week without buses and the ways in which it is affecting people is growing.

Life without a bus ride has been very challenging for Grace Kuhn. She has been taking the bus for years. She uses transit for everything from getting to work, to appointments, to meeting with friends. She’s turned to Kijiji to help fill the transportation void but unfortunately that has fallen through as well.

“I literally sit down and cried,” Kuhn said.

She can’t afford to spend $600 a month on cab fare and she doesn’t want to spend all of her savings. What really frustrated her was the response she got after she wrote an email to her city councillor.

“Saying, sorry this has happened, but here’s a couple of links, you can (go online) to get yourself a ride. You’re kidding me?” Kuhn said.

Like I said, we’re very fortunate we can afford a car. A lot of people in this city rely on transit and even with a car, we use the bus quite a bit, too, on account of shift work schedules and kid trading between houses and other needs. We need a working bus system.

It’s great news that the city has agreed to pay for 10 new buses, but they’re not additional buses, they’re replacement buses for ancient machines that keep breaking down.

A shortage of mechanics that caused a backlog of bus maintenance was the biggest factor for cancelled routes prior to unionized transit workers being locked out by the city on Sept. 20.

Older buses were also partially to blame for cancelled routes after the Labour Day weekend.

Some of the buses currently in the fleet are over 20-years-old and have more than 1.5 million kilometres.

That’s like 2 trips to the moon and back. Small wonder they’re falling apart…

Unrelated, but interesting for other reasons (mostly because I somehow never heard about it), apparently at the start of September, a 9 year old took a brief joyride in a bus that was left running with the door unlocked. The kid promptly drove the bus out of the garage area and onto the street. Eventually he struck another bus parked not far away and another vehicle. Due to his age, the police are unable to lay any charges on him.

No injuries were reported and damage to the buses is estimated between $1,000 and $10,000.

“This is not a case where policies need to be reviewed or practises need to be reviewed, this is a case where, from what I’ve seen, policy and procedures were very clearly violated,” said Jorgenson.

The city is in the early stages of the investigation.

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