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Calgary Transit looking at $90M shortfall this year

Last Updated Jan 18, 2021 at 11:13 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Calgary Transit is bracing for a $90 million shortfall this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, ridership reached only 52 million people compared to 106.4 million in 2019.

So what changed? Acting Director for Calgary Transit Russell Davies said many people are still working from home, which means transit is losing money from ridership fees and Park And Ride.

Although some changes, like seating restrictions, have been relaxed, it’s still been a tough ride for Calgary Transit these past few months.

“We’re still carrying about 50 to 60 per cent of the ridership on an annual basis we’re estimating,” said Davies. “The revenue is vastly different for that because a large portion of the ridership is low-income people and therefore don’t pay the same fare structure as the full monthly pass.”

Davies explained if Calgarians continue to work from home and ridership and revenues continue to fall, they may have to redefine what services they provide in the longterm.

Last spring, the service cut just over 400 transit employees due to a drop in ridership and changes to some routes.

RELATEDMore than 400 Calgary Transit employees laid off

Davies added another factor to the drop in users is a fear about catching COVID-19 on transit.

“As far as I’m aware, I don’t think we’ve had a single case where anybody has claimed they’ve caught COVID from taking Calgary Transit. Last year, we carried 50 million people so through 50 million transactions to have no cases traced back to using Calgary Transit is quite astonishing.”

Davies said they have made major adjustments to service and staffing levels which saved them $60 million last year.

As for how to rebound from the low revenues, Davies said it is hard to answer that question as they’re not sure what society will look like in the coming months.

“If nobody goes to work downtown any longer than our transit service to downtown is impacted significantly. It doesn;t matter what we do at that point. Calgary Transit can really only adjust to what the rest of the ridership wants. There’s lots of people saying they want to continue working from home. If that happens we will need to make some long term adjustments to our service.”

Davies said ridership picked up near the end of 2020 before the second wave of COVID-19 led to more public health restrictions and another decline in those using the service.