Kingston Transit has been forced to lay off all part-time Kingston Transit employees as a result of operational changes made due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic, confirms Jeremy DaCosta, Manager of Kingston Transit.
“All of our part-time bus operators have received notice because of a temporary shortage of work, and that is related to a service change that will happen on Thursday. So we’re reducing our transit service, both in terms of the hours of operation and the frequency, down to a level that allows us to continue to provide service consistently over what we think is going to be a long period of time given the COVID-19 situation,” says DaCosta.
DaCosta says that the layoffs are partially as a result of recent reduced ridership during the pandemic.
“I would say it’s a couple of things… We were able to collect really good data about our ridership and our riders before we went to free transit, because every rider had to pay at the fare box. So we know in the days before we provided free transit, our ridership overall across the system had declined between 75 and 80 per cent, relative to the very same March Break period the year before. So we know our ridership was down,” says DaCosta.
“The other thing, though, does relate to our ability to ensure, as the situation goes on, that we can continue to provide some level of service to our community. And we wanted to reduce it now so that we were able to maintain a consistent level of service over the next days, and over the next weeks,” he explains. “We didn’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we were trying to maintain a level of service where we were cancelling trips quite randomly all over the place. So it was about being prepared and being ready for that as well.”
DaCosta says that he hopes the layoffs will be short-lived. “Kingston Transit (has) led the country in ridership growth, we are recognized nationally for all the things we have done, and it is my hope that we can get back to the place that we were just one week ago,” he says. “We still want to make this Canada’s fastest-growing, best transit system, and to do that, we need all of our staff, and so it would be my hope that we’re going to build to get back to that place as quickly as possible, and I can welcome back all of my operators. They’re still City of Kingston employees, they still are our bus operators, it’s just during this temporary slow-down and reduction in service, there’s a bit of a blip. But I want to bring us back to that place as quickly as I can.”
DaCosta says that 55 employees were affected by the layoffs. “Our total number of operators is about 160 in total, that’s full time operators. Our full time operators are continuing to work and deliver service to the community.”