Increase in usage of city busses since Sask Rivers and City partnership

Daily Herald File Photo. A Sask. Rivers school bus waits outside Wesmor High School in Prince Albert in this Daily Herald file photo. The City of Prince Albert has seen a significant increase in students taking city transit since Sask. Rivers discontinued its high school bussing service.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division’s transportation accountability report shows that students are taking advantage of discounted bus passes since the division partnered with the City of Prince Albert for high school transportation.

The Sask. Rivers board got a look at the report during their regular meeting on Monday. It shows 1,266 bus passes purchased in the division. That’s an increase from the 915 reported in January 2023.

“That would be connected to our high school busing,” Sask. Rivers Education Director Neil Finch said. “Last year we discontinued our high school bussing. We are in year two of that (pass program) and so that would have an impact with more students taking those passes because we no longer offer that (bus) service.”

The City and Sask. Rivers School Division have signed an agreement to subsidize the cost of student bus passes. Normally they would be $55/month, but the city will put up half the cost, so the division can sell them to students at a reduced rate of $20/month.

Finch said it was important to see good uptake for the program.

The joint announcement from the division and the City in March, 2022 said the change would affect students at Carlton Comprehensive Public High School, Wesmor Public High School, Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) and Won Ska Cultural Public School

There were also 254 routes cancelled from January 2023 to January 2024. That’s a decrease from the 350 cancellations the year before.

Weather was the biggest cause of cancellations with 210 days. There were also 35.5 days cancelled because a substitute driver was not available, with no data available on whether those were COVID-19 related. There were also 8.5 days cancelled due to mechanical issues.

According to the report, recruiting and hiring bus drivers continues to be a challenge. This problem is particularly acute in substitute drivers as the division continues to have all regular routes filled.

Overall, Finch said that the numbers in the report were positive around cancellations because of weather.

This was the third report since the board requested more depth and greater detail. Each division in Saskatchewan receives this report from the Ministry of Education four times a year to see how the division’s buses, drivers and mechanics are doing. The report is done semi-annually in the division.

The oral report was given by Chief Financial Officer Jerry Pidborochynski and outlined a broader report because of a board request.

The report featured data up to Jan. 31, 2024. The number of students transported has increased slightly from the previous report in 2023. In 2023 there were 3,179 students transported compared to 3,179 in 2022.

The average age of the bus fleet has increased from eight years in 2023 from seven years in 2022. There are currently 105 transportation routes with 25 contracted out.

The average urban one-way bus ride is 14 minutes while the average rural bus ride one way is 27 minutes. The longest urban one-way bus ride is 75 minutes and the longest rural one-way bus ride is 95 minutes.

There were no reported complaints of a serious nature in this report.