FAQ: New Era For Transit in Wood Buffalo
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On Feb. 19, 2015, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo announced it would deliver transit in-house after a 90-day transition period following the termination of its contract with Tok Transit. This will have no direct impact on the transit service delivered every day to our residents. The Municipality made this decision after evaluating the results of the 2014 Municipal Transit Audit.
The audit findings prompted the Municipality to take a closer look at the existing transit services contract and how Tok Transit had been delivering it. This led to the conclusion that the bus fleet may not have been maintained to the standard the Municipality believes necessary to keep buses running both efficiently and safely. We decided to re-examine all options for delivery of this essential public service, taking into account not only maintenance and safety, but also overall cost to the taxpayer and the ability to maintain a high level of service. We determined that bringing public transit in-house is the best option at this time.
Below are answers to likely questions about the change.
Will this transition impact transit users?
No, we are committed to providing quality service during this transition and we will make every effort to ensure a seamless transition over the 90 days. There will be no changes to routes, schedules or fares.
Why are you moving transit in-house?
The Municipal Transit Audit conducted in 2014 highlighted areas in which we should be doing better. When we looked at approaches to providing better service, one option was joining the majority of Canadian municipalities that operate their own systems. Transit is an essential service and bringing the service in-house allows us to ensure quality of service and maintenance. An analysis of the situation and business plan has us feeling confident that this Municipality, and this team in particular, is ready to take the next logical step towards ensuring better service by taking the wheel on behalf of residents. The Director of Public Works, who oversees transit services, has over a decade of experience in senior leadership in municipal transit services.
How will you ensure you’re able to deliver this service better in-house?
We’re confident in our ability to deliver a transit service with improved customer service and maintenance, as well as more accountability and transparency. We have experienced transit staff that will ease the transition. Cities of similar size, such as Red Deer and Lethbridge are managing transit services in-house much like many municipalities across the country.
Will you have to hire more employees with in-house service?
Under the Alberta Labour Relations Act, the Municipality will take on these operators if they’re interested in joining the Municipality under their current collective agreement. We expect the majority will continue to work in public transit with us.
What is the cost of bringing transit in-house?
We expect operating costs to be comparable to how much is currently being spent, but with improved customer service. We already own most of the infrastructure related to transit, including buses and bus shelters, and are in the process of purchasing the transit building.
What were grounds for terminating the contract with Tok Transit?
The contract allows the Municipality to sever the contract for any reason with 90 days’ notice. A Municipal Transit Audit was completed and presented to Council in October 2014 that identified several concerns about the current service. The audit findings indicated excessive customer complaints, numerous violations of reporting and compliance, operational and mechanical deficiencies and customer experience issues including late and missed trips.
The Municipal Transit Audit is available online. Based on these findings, administration committed to complete a business plan with an option to bring transit service in-house — the most feasible option from an operational and cost efficiency perspective.