More bus trips cancelled as Halifax Transit grapples with staffing shortage

Transit users in Halifax say they are frustrated by ongoing trip cancellations due to staffing shortages. (CBC - image credit)
Transit users in Halifax say they are frustrated by ongoing trip cancellations due to staffing shortages. (CBC - image credit)

The number of cancelled bus trips in the Halifax Regional Municipality has reached 75 due to a shortage of transit drivers.

The times of cancelled trips range from 5:45 a.m. to 6:39 p.m. and affect different routes across the municipality.

The city chose these trips to cancel because they were less popular. But as the list of cancelled trips grows, more people are being affected.

Shoma Kazi found out her bus was cancelled the hard way.

"I couldn't get to work the other day," Kazi said. "I got to the bus stop and both routes [I needed] were cancelled. I had to get my parents to drive me."

Kazi said she's been having a lot of problems with Halifax Transit, saying service lately is becoming more unreliable. Sometimes buses are late, sometimes early and sometimes cancelled entirely.

"There's no way to work around it," Kazi said. "No amount of extra time built in or checking bus schedules will ensure that the bus actually shows."

Josiah Patterson, another transit user, has had similar experiences.

"I was taking a bus to work at around 7:30. I was trying to figure out when the bus was going to come. I looked it up and it told me it was cancelled."

Buses are usually Patterson's preferred way of getting around. He said he's never had problems using transit before and he's grateful for the service, but lately he says it's becoming "confusing and frustrating."

The Amalgamated Transit Union 508, which represents transit workers in Halifax, estimates up to 40 drivers may be needed to get things running smoothly again.

High burnout rate for drivers, says union

Shane O'Leary, the president of the transit union, says the shortage is "100 per cent to blame on a lack of management."

"We're getting a high burnout rate. With the shortage of staff, the overtime is just too much, the workload is just too much, and the employer is not stepping up."

HRM says it is working on advertising campaigns to try to hire more drivers. O'Leary said that's not enough.

"You can't put up a poster and say "job well done."

O'Leary said the problem isn't just hiring drivers but keeping them. He said people complete training but don't take the job when they hear about hours, overtime and pay. Many drivers are retiring early.

The average hourly wage for transit staff in Halifax is $21.60, almost 10 dollars less than the national average.