Calgary Transit needs a year to reach pre-pandemic staff levels

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When it comes to getting bus and train service back to pre-pandemic levels, Calgary Transit says it has a staffing problem, not a money problem.

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Sharon Fleming, director of fleet services with Calgary Transit, explained the numbers to Council during budget deliberations.

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“So we have a situation where we haven’t really recruited very much in the last four years. We have high attrition due to retirements and we’re looking at ramping up our training capacity, so that we can push through the recruits that we need for next year just to return to 100 per cent service as of 2019.”

Fleming said a blank check would not speed things up, and that they have the budget to meet their hiring goal by the end of next year.

She said as of November, Calgary Transit had 1,881 operators, and they need 800 more to get back to 2019 levels.

“We have recruited about 253 this year and we have actually called back most of the operators that were laid off during the pandemic,” she said. “So this is an issue of attrition because of retirements. And we are working to ramp up our training team so that we can recruit as quickly as possible, hopefully recruiting up to 800 next year.”

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Fleming said they aren’t having any trouble getting recruits for the operator positions. They are triaging those with experience, interviewing and training. She said it can take up to two-and-a-half months from the interview process until a candidate is behind the wheel.

Once staffing levels are back to 2019 levels, Fleming said Calgary Transit plans to use new money in the budget to focus on the city’s primary transit network — its CTRain lines and bus rapid transit lines

The city wants to focus on increasing frequency along the primary transit network, and during two days of public hearings, many of the more than 120 speakers raised concerns about the frequency of Calgary’s transit networks.

Coun. Evan Spencer puts a question to Fleming about the cost of getting the service to levels proposed in the Route Ahead strategy of 10 minute frequency for about 15 hours each day.

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“Can you give me a sense of where the gaps are going to be in terms of infrastructure and operating? How much is left to do to get to that kind of ideal (primary transit network)?”

Fleming said to fund the current network of CTrains and BRTs at levels proposed in the Route Ahed strategy would require an operating budget investment of $53 million per year, and approximately $88 million to $110 million in vehicles.

However the strategy has plans for a wider primary transit network. Fleming put that cost at an additional $140 million, plus a one-time capital investment of $650 to $750 million.
Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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