Prince Albert’s Reopen Transit Plan hits phase one

Bus riders saw some return to normalcy on Monday as the City of Prince Albert launched phase one of its Transit Reopen Plan.

June 8 marked the return of the City’s early morning transit services, which was previously cut due to lack of ridership. It also saw the return of the Rush Hour Service from 2:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. City council voted unanimously to reintroduce those services during their last council meeting on June 1.

Phase three of the Reopen Saskatchewan Plan also started on Monday, and city transportation manager Keri Sapsford said residents needed working buses to fully take advantage of it.

“We wanted to match the phasing with the provincial government when more businesses were open,” she explained. “We knew that we’d probably see a jump in ridership on June 8 as well.”

Phase three allows retail stores, malls, personal services, childcare facilities, gyms and fitness centres to reopen under limited conditions.

City council voted to temporarily reduce transit hours during a meeting on April 27. Those reductions included ending bus service to all areas of the city between 6:45 a.m. and 7:45 a.m.

Transit statistics showed early morning ridership plummeted from an average of 100 riders before the pandemic to an average of less than 20 after. The City also temporarily halted Rush Hour Bus Service.

The month long shut down saved roughly $20,000 in transit costs. It will continue to save around $210 per day during phase one.

There is no set date for phase two of the City’s Reopen Transit Plan, which allows Rush Hour Services to resume operations between 6:45 a.m. and 9:45 a.m. According to a city report, the afternoon ridership is higher than the morning ridership, and drivers were forced to refuse passengers to keep in line with provincial social distancing guidelines.

May 19 was the busiest day for Prince Albert’s bus service. A total of 705 riders used it, with another 30 being denied due to COVID restrictions. The second highest number of refused riders came on May 23, when 22 were not allowed to board city transit. Other days saw anywhere from zero to 14 riders refused entry.

The City plans to return to full rush hour service once more than 10 riders are consistently refused riders during the morning Rush Hour period.

All city bus passes are being sold at discounted rates because employees cannot distinguish between Ministry of Social Services clients, who receive passes at a discount, and regular riders. City administrators estimate this will lead to more than half of transit riders getting a discount. This will lead to a 50 per cent drop in revenue from regular riders. The discounted passes will end once City Hall reopens to the public.

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