Overtime, portable hoists solve Transit Windsor service interruptions as city warns of costly long-term fix

Passengers prepare to board a Transit Windsor bus at the downtown Windsor terminal. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)
Passengers prepare to board a Transit Windsor bus at the downtown Windsor terminal. (Chris Ensing/CBC - image credit)

Bus service has returned to normal after weeks of unplanned service interruptions that cut back service to some of Windsor's most used high frequency routes.

Employees worked overtime and the city brought in extra hoists used to service an aging fleet that at one point was operating 20 buses below the bare minimum, according to Transit Windsor.

"We're hitting our service levels now," said Mark Winterton, the city's acting commissioner of infrastructure.

Winterton said the service returned to expected levels last week with most of the buses returning to operating condition after bringing portable hoists to the garage.

"That's obviously something we need to continue to work on long term and we've got a plan toward that but in terms of the short-term issues out of the garage, we've got that taken care of."

He was not able to say how much money the city has spent to get the fleet back to working condition, which includes mobile hoists, staff overtime and parts.

No money for long term fix yet

A 2021 report to council described the 46-year-old garage as having a "wide range of deficiencies in both the building condition and its design" that would need $40 million in repairs if the city wants to use it beyond 2026.

"The long-term plan is ultimately to replace the garage or do a major, major retrofit to it. But that's going to take some serious funding and will require the senior level government to do that. That's multi-hundreds of millions of dollars to get into that," said Winterton.

"That's not on the books right now."

City council voted against replacing the garage in 2022, which carried an estimated cost of $191 million, opting instead to spend $100 million to upgrade terminals through ought the city, bus shelters and replacing buses.

Most of that money is from the federal government, with $28.9 million coming from the city.

Union calls lack of schedule updates for users 'ridiculous' 

The service levels have returned to normal as Transit Windsor reached a tentative agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 616.

"There are obviously some problems behind the scenes at Transit Windsor that have nothing to do with our members, have nothing to do with negotiations," said Manny Sforza, international president with ATU.

"There's difficulties getting the buses repaired and out for service on a daily basis. It's not uncommon to have operators sitting around because they don't have the equipment. And at the end of the day, that's the traveling public that suffers."

Sforza said that Transit Windsor should have done more to let people know about changes to their bus routes.

"Transit Windsor is not even telling the general public which buses are missing in the morning. It's absolutely ridiculous," said Sforza.

Winterton pointed people to the Transit Windsor app, although some users said it was not accurately reflecting schedules during the disruptions.

"Because some of this stuff is real time, we're not going to be able to keep up with it with, say, media announcements or or things like that. It isn't a practical solution. So the app is by far the best way to get real time," said Winterton.

"There's a lot of great things going on in transit. Of course, there's challenges but but we think we were going in the right direction."