The Amalgamated Transit Union 1505 is urging city council to reconsider its plans to reduce Sunday transit hours and cut service on six statutory holidays.
Union president Aleem Chaudhary intended to appear at Brandon’s city council meeting Monday night but was unable to travel due to the winter storm.
Instead, Chaudhary spoke with Mayor Rick Chrest and city treasurer Dean Hammond via telephone prior to the public hearing on the city’s proposed 2018 financial plan.
"We would like for them to reconsider their cuts," Chaudhary said. "Obviously, given the fact that these (cuts) are affecting a lot of people, especially people who are disabled," and low-income individuals.
During budget deliberations in January, council voted to reduce Sunday bus service by two hours. It was decided that the schedule will change from an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. schedule, to a 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. schedule, as of March 30. This created a savings of $18,750.
Council also voted to eliminate bus service on six statutory holidays and related overtime, for a savings of $45,000. Buses will not run on Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Canada Day, Labour Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Chaudhary said he’s concerned for the people who need to ride the bus to attend church, work or go to community events.
"I understand that a lot of people in Brandon have vehicles … but how do you get them off that dependency? Not by cutting service, that’s for sure," he said. "(Brandon) is a beautiful city, and it’s a growing city, and I think the people deserve a good, reliable, safe and dependable transit system there. And the ridership will grow … more and more people are becoming more green."
Chaudhary acknowledged the predicament Brandon is in, due to the province cancelling its 50-50 funding formula. The city’s provincial transit grant is frozen at 2016 levels.
"It is not their fault, but it is the Pallister government that’s at fault," he said. "They have to have dedicated funding for the transit system in Brandon and Winnipeg, and all of the other municipalities that do have transit systems."
Chrest said he and Chaudhary had a cordial phone call on Monday, and the union’s concerns will be taken into account.
"Obviously we want an efficient and sustainable transit system," Chrest said. "We needed to make a few tweaks to keep the cost to the taxpayer from getting out of control, and by us doing a few smaller adjustments to keep the big picture more sustainable."
Chrest explained to Chaudhary that the adjustments were made during times of low ridership, in hopes of impacting the least amount of people.
"Somebody’s always going to be caught up in that," he said. "There’s a few people that need it at that time, and that’s unfortunate, but we have quite a balancing act to consider with the greater taxpayer."
He noted there is in excess of $2 million of local tax subsidy that goes into transit, plus a similar subsidy from the province.
"We have to be mindful that it’s a lot of tax dollars that are going into this system, and it’s therefore incumbent on us to be as judicious with that resource as we can be."
There were no other presentations during the city’s public hearing on its financial plan. The full financial plan and approved 2018 budget documents are available online at brandon.ca. Council is scheduled to give the 2018 financial plan first reading at the April 3 meeting.
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