The Director of Transportation, Matt Richter reviewed the Transportation Accountability Report with the Board on January 12th.
The transportation funding has been the same for the last couple of years due to the Covid-19 virus so this year a grant application was not required.
The Transportation Department did complete a mock application to assess what funding would look like with the current students who are accessing services.
A total of 3,851 students are currently riding the bus, requiring 91 bus routes and 23 bus contractors. Last year, the division had 96 routes and 25 contractors. Of those students, 2,638 are considered rural and 1,213 urban and are funded. The total number of unfunded students riding the bus is 433.
The division’s Driving School, established to help reduce training costs for the division and bus contractors, provided full MELT Class 2/S course training to eight students last year and an additional 11 students completed the S Course (School Bus Safety Course). The school generated over $20,000 in fees to outside entities.
Richter told the board “Bus driver recruitment and retention continue to be an issue, with some bus contractors ceasing to operate due to a massive increase in insurance premiums. Premiums increased from $4,500 per bus to $6,500 per bus. As a result of the shortage of drivers and contractors, routes had to be consolidated, increasing capacity on buses and extending some ride times.“
Richter also highlighted the ongoing problem that drivers are not being safe when passing school busses. He says they are continuing to ignore the flashing red lights and extended stop arms on buses, passing at high speeds, and sometimes even on the right side of the bus where students are getting off and on. Bus drivers are reporting approximately three flybys per week.
The Board passed a motion to send a letter to the Ministers of Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as to the Treasury Board outlining its concerns related to transportation.
This includes the impact COVID-19 and MELT (Mandatory Entry Level Training) have had on driver recruitment, the need for the province to move forward with the work done by the Transportation Task Force, the impact skyrocketing insurance premiums are having on contractors and the student transportation system, and the need to take steps to address flybys, including installing stop-arm cameras on all school buses.