‘A change of course’: Winnipeg transit to reduce service due to pandemic

By | April 22, 2020

WINNIPEG — Winnipeg Transit will start gradually reducing service over the next two weeks, due to a drop in ridership caused by the pandemic.

In a release sent Wednesday morning, the city said it has seen a significant reduction in ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in the city laying off 253 drivers temporarily, and reducing bus routes.

“Today, the stark realities are requiring a change of course,” said Mayor Brian Bowman during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

The city said ridership has declined 72 per cent compared to this time last year, and revenue from Winnipeg Transit has declined an estimated 74 per cent.

“For a service that’s already heavily subsidized, we’ve reached the point where we can’t continue along the same course, and unfortunately temporary layoffs are in fact required,” said Bowman.

The layoffs include 229 permanent drivers, and 24 non-permanent drivers. Permanent drivers will be laid off effective May 3, while non-permanent drivers will be laid off between May 1 and 22, as training is completed.

In addition to layoffs, the weekday transit schedule will shift to an enhanced Saturday and Sunday schedule on May 4.

Adjusted schedules will be posted on Thursday. The city said it will result in 221 fewer buses on the road.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 is asking the city to reconsider the layoffs.

“I’m extremely disappointed that frontline staff are getting axed when there’s a lot of other fat to be trimmed,” said Romeo Ignacio ATU 1505 Local President in a written statement. “It is unacceptable that management didn’t even give us a courtesy call, before they began notifying our members of the lay off while they were on the job.”

“Public transit is an essential service right now during COVID-19 and will be key to our economic and social recovery after the fact,” said James Van Gerwen ATU 1505 Executive Vice President, in a written statement. “Our members, who have been putting their lives on the line during these trying times, quite frankly, deserve better from their employer than to be punted to the curb like this.”

This is a developing story. More to come.

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