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Bus system on brink

Editorial: It has been a rough couple of years for Guelph Transit drivers and riders alike.

Hopefully, the tentative contract deal struck late Sunday night – only a couple of minutes before a planned city lockout of Amalgamated Transit Union members – will be ratified by both sides, thus preventing things from getting a whole lot rougher.

It was about 2 1/2 years ago, on Jan. 1, 2012, that Guelph Transit introduced major transit changes that included revamped routing and 15-minute peak weekday service.

The changes were part of a transit growth strategy approved by city council in June 2010, after a comprehensive review of Guelph’s transit system. ATU Local 1189 president Andrew Cleary described the first week of the new system as “the most hectic and difficult week” the city’s bus drivers had ever experienced.

Guelph Transit responded with a series of adjustments to routes.

But by the fall of 2012, transit officials concluded that too many bus connections were being missed. That December, council approved a change to 20-minute peak service, to bring reliability back to the system.

The lure of 15-minute peak service was gone.

Last year brought more turmoil to the transit system.

Michael Anders, who had been Guelph Transit’s general manager since 2009, lost his job in July.

In November, the city’s internal auditor, Loretta Alonzo, issued a report on the city’s overtime practices that was highly critical of Guelph Transit workers, sparking an angry reaction from the ATU. In the midst of this, the more than 200 full- and part-time members of ATU Local 1189 were without a contract, the last one having expired more than a year ago.

“We believe this agreement is a key first step to repairing our relationship with ATU Local 1189 and ensuring that Guelph’s residents continue to have the transit service on which they depend,” Mayor Karen Farbridge said of Sunday’s tentative deal.

Let’s hope she’s right.

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