City puts extended bus hour trial on hold due to lack of drivers

A plan to have city buses running later into the evening is on hold due to a lack of drivers.

The City of Prince Albert planned to start their Extended City Transit Hour Trial on March 13, but that won’t happen until they can hire at least three more drivers.

“It’s something that hopefully we can fix quick if the right applicants come forward,” said Evan Hastings, the City’s traffic and transportation manager. “We would like more than a few additional drivers.”

Hastings said he couldn’t comment on why they face a driver shortage since transit contractor First Bus Canada is responsible for the hiring. The City is working with First Bus to find more applicants.

The City’s transit department has not set a new start date. Regardless of when the new drivers are hired, the trial will still end as intended on March 31.

“We’re hoping to get it back starting as soon as possible, obviously, but the end date will still be the same,” Hastings said.

Council approved the Extended City Transit Hour Trial in February after they received funding from the federal and provincial governments. As part of the trial, bus services at all routes will run until 10:15 p.m. Previously, the transit service ran until 7:15., however most riders needed to be on the bus by 6:15 to get to their destination before the service stopped.

Prince Albert has seen a 55 per cent increase in transit usage over the last 18 years, but only a two per cent increase in service hours, according to a Transportation Department report.

“As the costs of fuel and vehicle ownership have increased, more people look towards public transit as their primary source of transportation,” the report reads. “The extension of weekday transit hours has been a constant and consistent request from the general public.”

The City will post updates in their website about the new trial start date.

–with files from Bailey Sutherland