Halifax Transit cuts routes, reduces trips
Staff shortages blamed; union points to work conditions
January 25, 2023, 2:43 pm ASTLast Updated: February 3, 2023, 6:48 pm
Halifax Transit suspended three bus routes on Tuesday, announcing routes may return later this year.
Starting Feb. 27, service will stop running on 41 Dartmouth-Dalhousie, 178 Mount Edward Express and 179 Cole Harbour Express. Schedules will be adjusted for 6-Woodside A / Eastern Passage B, 21 Timberlea, and 54 Montebello.
As well, 105 trips will be eliminated from 30 routes.
“Reductions have been developed with consideration for passenger impact and no community will completely lose service during these changes,” reads the Halifax Regional Municipality website.
Staffing shortages are to blame, according to HRM and if the current pace of recruitment continues, regular service should return in late summer of this year.
“It’s their fault we’re not staffed up,” said Shane O’Leary, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 508. When he began working there “it was a good municipal job with a pension and benefits” and now, “there’s nobody lining up at the door ….”
O’Leary represents bus drivers, ferry operators, para-transit and maintenance workers.
HRM stated 35 new drivers were trained and hired between September and December of 2022 and it intends to hire more this year, with new training courses starting every three weeks.
But O’Leary estimates seven drivers have quit since Jan. 1.
“Employees are disgruntled,” he said, adding drivers work 40 to 70 hours per week. If they miss more than two days of work “they’re calling you in and asking for doctor’s notes, and you can be home with COVID or the flu.”
He said 10 per cent of the roughly 1,000 bus drivers have written complaint letters to HRM, citing safety issues, split shifts, and low wages.
In 2022, the living wage for Halifax was $23.50, according to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Bus drivers in their first year make 62 cents less per hour, at $22.88, according to the HRM recruitment website, while trainees earn $21.45 per hour.
The collective agreement for transit workers expired on Aug. 31. O’Leary said he hopes regional council steps up to end what he calls “a vicious circle” which “just keeps getting worse.”
That impacts riders such as Courtney Loveless who travels the No. 41 bus to her appointments at Laing House in Halifax.
“It’s garbage,” said Loveless, 28.
She estimates the cancellation will add 15 to 30 minutes of travel time.
“There’s not a lot of options anymore. It’s really hard to navigate HRM,” said Loveless.
She said she is concerned for the poor who rely on transit.
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