Regina transit still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic routes, schedules

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Waiting for the bus

by Hammad Ali, Contributor

While we seem to be in the second wave of Covid-19, with the province recently registering the highest number of new cases since the pandemic began, the city of Regina has slowly been opening up in phases. However, even as most businesses have reopened to full or at least partial service and many Regina residents are back at work and school, Regina Transit services is still not back to their regular schedule, although they’ve resumed charging full fare for their service, following a brief respite during the spring and summer when Regina transit was free for all residents. Since not having adequate public transport options affects all of us who do not drive but still need to get around the city in a timely manner, we reached out to Regina Transit to ask a few questions.

Nathan Luhning, manager of transit administration, mentioned that at present, weekday services are operating at roughly 80 per cent of what they were prior to the start of the pandemic in March. Right now, on both days of the weekend, the buses are running on the Sunday/holiday schedule. That means that on most routes, the bus only comes once per hour and runs only until 7 p.m., a major hardship for transit users who work weekends and evenings. In addition, some express buses are not running at the moment, in part because the routes they serve – the university, for instance – don’t have as much demand right now. Still, Regina residents have largely returned to work, and that includes residents who use the bus to get to and from their place of employment. Frontline workers, like those at grocery stores and who work in maintenance, have been working throughout the pandemic and have not seen their need for reliable, affordable transit decline, and so it seems strange that the city would argue that the demand for the bus service has gone down enough that they would significantly cut back on Saturday service.

Another reason why buses are not running at full schedule is the maximum capacity. Under normal circumstances, the buses are able to accommodate nearly 50 to 60 people, along with those standing. However, currently the Saskatchewan Health Authority has called for a limit of 30 people to try to ensure that physical distancing measures can be maintained. As a result of this, Luhning said that transit services are keeping some buses as backup in case one of the regular buses is at limit and cannot take the rest of the passengers at a stop. However, Luhning did mention that they have plans to resume express route 50 as well as regular Saturday services, starting the week of November 9. [Editor’s note: seems like it would be more efficient to run more buses at regular times to prevent overcrowding and encourage transit use.]

In conversation, the U-Pass also came up. Nathan Luhning mentioned that for the Fall 2020 term, there was not enough time for them to work something out with the University of Regina Students’ Union. However, as the campus continues online in Winter 2021, they are hoping to negotiate something that is beneficial to both transit services and the UofR student body. Luhning also mentioned that as more on-campus services resume and the demand for buses to the university rises, they will be looking at how to best serve those routes.

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