The City of Winnipeg funds the Transit Plus service for transit users with mobility challenges. At present, it is delivered entirely by private contractors.
In July, a committee of city council considered my motion from 2019 to bring 30 per cent of Transit Plus (formerly Handi Transit) services back "in house" - meaning the services would be delivered directly by the city rather than contracted out to private operators.
The city used to deliver 30 per cent of these services itself, so the idea of a model that mixes both public and private operators has been successfully used in the past. My motion has been referred to budget deliberations later this year and I am hoping that council will give a green light to the idea this fall so that the transition to a public/private model can get underway.
There are three main problems with the current Transit Plus arrangements:
1. Complaints from Transit Plus users about the quality of these services;
2. The drivers are usually not "employees" but are instead defined as "independent contractors." Councillors have received many complaints about the working conditions and pay of these drivers, as they must provide their own vehicles or use vehicles rented to them by the companies which win the bid for lowest-cost contract;
3. The escalating costs of the private sector contracts. The city’s own budget documents show that the average cost per ride has increased from $22.74 in 2015 to $27.81 in 2019.
Meanwhile, the cost of a Transit Plus bus contract increased from $7.8 million, for 15 per cent of the total call volume in 2012, to effectively double at $16.8 million for 16 per cent of the call volume in 2019.
If the great advantage of private operators is supposed to be cost savings for taxpayers, the city’s own records show a vast increase in the cost per ride, and the cost of awarding out these contracts.
I have been pleased to work with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Independent Living Resource Centre on this campaign to bring some balance back into the delivery of Transit Plus services.
If the city shows the industry that it is prepared to bring some of the work back under City control, it should at least force private operators to improve their product and to limit cost increases.
Please feel free to contact my office with your thoughts and experiences with Transit Plus services.
St. Vital ward report
Brian Mayes is the city councillor for St. Vital.