Members of the public works committee have unanimously agreed to postpone year five of Hamilton’s 10-year transit growth strategy.
The plan called for the purchase of 13 new buses and the hiring of 35 new operators this year, along with a five-cent fare increase in September, in order to add 46,000 hours in Hamilton Street Railway (HSR) service.
Director of Transit Debbie Dalle Vedove recommended postponing the enhancements because of “uncertainties” resulting from COVID-19.
Dalle Vedove says the pandemic has created a series of challenges including the purchase of new buses and the recruitment and training of new operators.
She adds that capacity limits on HSR buses to ensure physical distancing are presenting a risk to the current reliability of service.
Dalle Vedove says up to “three and a half times more buses could be required to carry the same number of customers”, if the number of customers returning to use the service outpaces the available capacity.
She says pass-bys on high demand routes are already “5-to-10 times higher than the pre-COVID averages, and these will grow as the city reopens.”
The HSR is also facing an $11.7 million revenue shortfall through the first half of 2020, a result of suspending the collection of fares during the pandemic, as customers were required to enter buses through the rear doors to protect the health and safety of bus drivers.
The collection of fares is scheduled to resume on July 1, after the installation of bio-shields is completed within all 267 buses in the transit fleet.
The city will also be increasing to two-thirds capacity, starting next week, when all customers will be required to wear homemade masks.
The postponement of year five of the transit strategy results in net savings for the city of $823,000 this year.
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