Bus riders on their own Nov. 1 when city transit stops running, at least temporarily

Transit bus riders in Thompson may be transforming into pedestrians, relying on the kindness of car-driving friends and family or spending much more to take taxis around town in November because city transit will cease to operate, at least for a few weeks, Nov. 1.

“Starting Nov. 1 there will be a lapse in transit services in the City of Thompson, until such time as the new council can meet, review the results of the RFP [request for proposals] for transit services, and council deciding on the next course of action,” said Thompson city manager Anthony McInnis in an Oct. 29 email. “At minimum, there will be a two-week disruption to service, pending council’s decision.”

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McInnis said information on the disruption would be released this week via social media, signs inside transit buses and local media.

Bobbi Montean says she uses transit to get to medical appointments at the hospital as often as two or three times a week and will be “begging for rides” via social media while there is no bus service.

“I am on a extremely fixed low income,” she said. “I may not be able to go to my appointments, get groceries nor even just get out to socialize a bit. Walking is not an option for me. I don’t have money for taxis. The kindness of family and friends providing rides ... wears out.”

Montean said she will try to get all of her errands completed before Nov. 1 but its worried what a long period without bus service could mean for some bus riders.

“I’m fearful with some of us not being able to get out and about, that depression is going to set in,” she said.

The city’s RFP issued earlier in October required potential transit service operators to submit their proposals by Oct. 17. The first regular meeting of the new council is Nov. 13.

Two proposals for the provision of transit services were received but the ad hoc committee reviewing the proposals wanted further details and clarification of the submitted information before entering into a long-term contract said an Oct. 26 city press release.

"Transit is an important service for many residents in Thompson, and we didn’t make this decision lightly,” said transit ad hoc committee chair Duncan Wong. "Still, the committee believes that this decision is necessary to ensure the long-term success of transit service in the City of Thompson.”

Greyhound Canada informed the city July 18 that it will no longer be providing drivers, storage and maintenance services for Thompson’s transit buses effective Oct. 31, the same day it runs its Western Canadian inter-city bus routes for the last time.

Under the terms of that contract, Greyhound provided bus drivers, storage facilities and maintenance on the two city-owned buses for a monthly fee, and provided replacement buses when the city’s were not usable at a cost of $800 per bus per day. 

In 2017, the city paid Greyhound $424,192.12 for its services and collected $95,842.20 in bus fares from roughly 53,000 riders, mostly during the school year. That means the cost to the city of operating the transit system was approximately $328,000, higher than during a five-year agreement from 2011 through 2015, when the average annual cost was about $273,000.

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