While the return to office has started to bring the hustle back into downtown Calgary, the state of our public transit system has left many wishing it could return to what it once was.
In recent months, ridership estimates have increased to nearly 80 per cent of what they were in early 2020. In a statement given to CBC News, Calgary Transit spokesperson Stephen Tauro said that since this school year started there’s been an additional 15 per cent increase in transit ridership.
However despite a substantial increase in passengers, Calgary Transit has struggled to maintain appropriate staffing levels to accommodate this increased demand.
“Using that three-car configuration, we’re able to get more trains through per hour than if we went with the four cars,” said Tauro.
At the beginning of the pandemic, nearly 450 positions were cut from Calgary’s transit system, which represented a third of the CTrain network at the time.
Since those layoffs, Mike Mahar, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583, said to Global News that the majority of the positions have yet to have been replaced.
“Because of COVID and some of the city policies that were implemented in the last two years, we’ve had attrition like never before. We had probably 125 people leave in 2021 and similar number in 2020. So they’re very short staffed,” he said.
Since 2022, overtime costs jumped almost$2 million up to $12 Million in 2021.
Dennis Gmiterek, who’s worked as a bus operator for the past seven years, but is currently switching over to an LRT controller says that there hasn’t been any internal push to fill those positions. “It’s been 100 per cent my own choice, no push at all,” Gmiterek said.
As a SAIT student who’s taken the CTrain his whole life, Paul Dyjur says that overall, he hasn’t personally seen a big difference.
“For scheduling it’s hard to say if we’ve been off or on peak times, but I haven’t really noticed a huge change. During peak times it seems to be around the same as always,” Dyjur said.
“But in the end, what are you going to do? It’s annoying, but that’s it — just annoying,” he said.
In 2005 as part of the Strategic Development of Calgary’s CTrain System plan, the City of Calgary planned to develop all C-Train platform to accommodate four car trains. As even 17 years ago, overcrowding was still a persistent issue.
But in the end, what are you going to do? It’s annoying, but that’s it — just annoying. – Paul Dyjur
“During the past decade, CTrain service has not kept pace with demand during peak periods. Crowded conditions on the CTrain are deterring potential new customers and threaten the long-term effectiveness of transit service.” the report stated.
On May 1 2017, Calgary Transit announced their final expansion to four car trains on the blue line, once the required $200 Million in funding was available for 63 new train cars. Initially, stations were built to accommodate 3-car trains, but current track design allows for an expansion to 5-car length platforms.
As Ward 12 councilor Evan Spencer said in an August 2022 meeting discussing their RouteAhead plan, “I think the priority is having an honest conversation about where transit is right now and why it’s falling short.”