Council to consider reducing bus service hours at next meeting

A Prince Albert city bus waits for passengers. -- Herald file photo

The City of Prince Albert may stop early morning and rush hour bus service due low ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The City’s transit department has recommended starting transit services at 7:45 a.m. instead of 6:45, effective Wednesday, April 29.

An average of 20 people use the bus service between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., according to Prince Albert’s transportation and traffic manager. That amounts to four passengers per bus during that period.

The move will save an estimated $17,000 per month in operation costs, as well as $695 a week in fuel. The $17,000 savings will not start until May 6, since the City must give 30 days notice before changing the service. The city notified First Bus that it would be reducing services on April 6.

The rush hour route primarily services students travelling to Prince Albert’s three main post-secondary campuses. Prior to the pandemic, city bus services averaged nearly 300 riders during peak morning hours. The peak afternoon rush saw an average of more than 250 hours.

Between March 16 and March 31, the peak average hourly ridership fell to less than 80 people. From April 1-22, the peak average hourly ridership was down to less than 60.

The transit debate is one of 22 items on a busy city council agenda. Other issues include a development permit application to build a pre-school and child care centre addition onto Arthur Pechey Public School. The expansion will provide 20 additional pre-school spaces and 26 new child care spaces, and require an additional eight staff members.

At least two local residents have written to council urging them to reject the request. They say the addition will reduce playground and green space, while also creating more parking problems. City administration has recommended council reduce the building’s parking requirement from 55 parking spaces down to 47.