Calgary Transit to lay off nearly 450 workers as COVID-19 dramatically decreases ridership: union
CALGARY -- Hundreds of Calgary Transit workers are expected to lose their jobs amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and the city-wide state of local emergency.
In a memo obtained by CTV Calgary, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 583 confirmed the difficult news.
"Calgary Transit is cutting 17,000 hours of service per week effective May 25. That is about 1/3 of CTrain service and will come from conventional, community shuttle and LRT service," read the note from union president Mike Mahar.
"In total there will be almost 450 jobs lost. The City intends to begin formally notifying employees as of Thursday, but we have some concerns around how they’ve interpreted some of the redeployment language to that may delay things for a few days."
Mahar calls the news "gut wrenching." He was unable to confirm the exact number of layoffs but said they will occur in the next three to four weeks.
"The reductions in service are in line with the layoffs in other cities like Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Winnipeg," Mahar told CTV News Wednesday morning. "Calgary is now in line with that given the loss of ridership and loss in revenues."
It's estimated that the city earns 55 per cent of transit revenue from fares.
The city had budgeted for $170 million in transit fare revenue for 2020 and now expects to lose anywhere from $10 to $12 million a month, despite still carryng around 100,000 riders a day.
The transit union now says the city has called for transit costs to be cut by an additional $45 million for this year.
The union noted that will result in the elimination of 23 runs that include routes on late night and mid-day service.
It’s not known how long the cuts will last, but transit workers are closely watching for announcements from schools boards regarding the resumption of student bus service this fall.
Calgary Transit officials would not comment on the union's claims Wednesday morning but said an update would be provided Thursday afternoon during the Calgary Emergency Management Agency's regularly scheduled update on the COVID-19 response in Calgary.
Riders in need of service
City officials have said ridership on CTrains in the city is down as much as 90 per cent and bus routes are down 80 per cent, but some Calgarians still rely heavily on the service.
People like Debra Charnuski, who hasn’t had a car for ten years, would have to use other methods of transportation such as taxis, ride share services or asking friends for a ride.
"I would say 70 per cent of my travel in the city of Calgary is done by transit so obviously it’s very important to me," she said. "I understand there has been a reduction in demand, but I really do feel like transit is an essential service with a lot of essential workers like myself relying on it to get to their jobs."
Senior citizens like Sandy Healy also need transit to obtain critical supplies.
"Transit is vital to me for grocery shopping, obtaining medical supplies, lab or other medical visits," explained Healy. "Due to the location of my seniors residence, I do have to take multiple forms of transit to reach my destination and to return home again. I am on my own and have no family here that could help."