Announcement on Sask Rivers transportation services took years of discussion

(Herald file photo)

The recent Saskatchewan Rivers School Division decision to stop using regular high school bus service in favour of city transit wasn’t a quick one, according to Jerrold Pidborochynski Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the division.

Pidborochynski said representatives from both sides started talking about the change a few years ago. He’s confident the division will receive good service from the City.

“We went through meetings (and) we looked at their transit maps,” Pidborochynski said. “They have over 140 bus stops throughout the city which covers the majority of the city.”

Monday’s joint announcement from the division and the City said the change would affect students at Carlton Comprehensive Public High School, Wesmor Public High School, Wesmor Public High School, Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) and Won Ska Cultural Public School beginning next school year. Transportation services for students in specialized learning centres and the Functional Integrated programs will continue to be provided by Sask Rivers.

“We knew that our students, wherever (they) live, can jump on a city bus and receive that transportation to our four different schools throughout the city, whether that is Carlton, Wesmor, PACI or Won Ska,” Pidborochynski explained. “We were confident in that ability.”

He added that he doesn’t think the change will be a big one for student bus riders. However, the division wants families to have enough time to prepare, which is why they made the announcement in March.

The division is also confident the City will be flexible if the current routes don’t work.

“Based on ridership, they are always open to route changes,” Pidborochynski. “If we have high ridership, say, at Carlton, the largest school in the province, they are open to changing their routes to make sure they meet that demand.

“From a student’s perspective they are still going to be riding a bus, and again, I mentioned it before with the 140 bus stops, (Sask. Rivers) only has 23 for the city. On those colder days, there are seven times as many bus stops for the city so the odds are in favour of the majority of cases.”

Pidborochynski said shorter walks to the bus stop wasn’t the only reason they made the change. The division also like the tools the City has to assist transit riders, like the transit route map on their website. He also said students could use the Google route planner, which allows them to find the nearest bus stop.

“It’s very comprehensive and we believe it will serve our students well,” he said.

It is expected that the transfer of service to City Transit will inevitably increase ridership as well as increase the knowledge and culture of Prince Albert City Transit. A review of the City’s transit system will be done throughout 2022 to ensure the additional ridership can be handled at peak hours.

Subsidized bus passes are available for high school students at a rate of $20 a month and the bus passes are available for use throughout the year not just on school days.

The City and Sask Rivers School Division have signed an agreement to subsidize the cost of student bus passes. Normally they would be $55 but the city is putting up 50/50 and we are matching that so that bus passes are selling to our students at a subsidized cost of only $20 a month.”