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Calgary Transit officials predict it will take two years to increase the frequency of buses and trains due to staffing issues.

City Council heard during the fourth day of budget deliberations that transit is short of 800 operators after pandemic layoffs and other service attrition.

“We hope to have at least half of them (hired) by the middle of the year,” Calgary Transit manager Sharon Fleming told reporters.

“We do service changes every quarter, so you’ll start to see some of that service coming in.”

The Council heard that 253 operators had already been recruited this year, with the service bolstering its training teams to put new operators on the road.

Fleming said Calgary Transit plans to have the service running at pre-pandemic levels by the end of next year.

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Transit is currently operating at 80% of 2019 service levels, the council heard.

Operating funding for transit in the budget is expected to increase from $265.6 million to $286.5 million over the next four years.

Proposed operating funding for Calgary Transit in the city’s four-year budget.

“For this year, it’s going to be about driving the recovery forward, and then you’ll see the increase in service levels over the rest of the budget period,” Fleming said.

The budget also includes capital funding of $559.4 million to help purchase 25 new LRT cars, lifecycle maintenance of fleet and transit facilities, and optimization of the public transport network.

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Fleming told the council that while the funding will help, the issues facing public transit are not a budget issue and will take time.

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“I think it’s really hard for the public to hear. I think they really want to see that increased frequency,” Ward 3 Councilor Jasmine Mian said. “But it’s hard because not everything is not just a budget issue.

Transit safety was also discussed during Thursday’s budget deliberations, after video emerged of an incident last week at Marlborough LRT station in which a fight broke out with weapons and a flare.

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Calgary Transit fights for millions more in funding as riders raise safety concerns

A man is in custody following the incident, while Calgary police continue to search for the other three men involved.

Ward 10 councilor André Chabot said he found the video of the incident “disturbing” and added that he and a group of fellow councilors were looking into the possibility of limiting access to certain LRT stations in the city by piloting a “closed system”.

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“If we had a closed system in some of these stations that can actually accommodate it, where you have limited entry points, we could eliminate some of these types of social behaviors that happen in our transit stations” , Chabot told reporters.

Calgary Transit has confirmed that a study on implementing a closed system in the city is included in the funding for the proposed four-year budget.

“Safety and security is a big issue when it comes to trying to get more people back into the system,” Chabot said. “If people don’t feel safe, they won’t enter the system.”

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Safety on Calgary Transit has been a growing concern during the pandemic, with police warning the public of a series of alleged sexual assaults in recent weeks at the Dalhousie station, including one that allegedly involved a woman in a bus shelter.

Calgary Transit riders who spoke to Global News on Thursday said they were often concerned about safety when using the service.

“When I pass, I always watch,” Amy Tam said. “When someone approaches me, I back away.”

The University of Calgary Students’ Union said it has heard from students who feel unsafe on the train and want to see students involved in discussions about safety in the system.

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“Post-secondary students pay for a UPass each semester, whether they use public transit on a daily basis or not,” student union president Nicole Schmidt told Global News. “So as a result of that, we’re asking that post-secondary students be engaged by Calgary Transit and the City of Calgary when it comes to solutions to improve transit safety. »

Calgary Transit officials said $5.9 million in city funding is currently being used to hire more transit peace officers to increase the security presence on the system.

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Officials told the council that six peace officers are expected to graduate this week, with 14 more later this month. Fourteen others are expected to complete their training in early 2023.

However, Ward 8 Councilor Courtney Walcott said transit riders would be better served if the council took action on systemic issues by funding social programs.

“We can make this decision and make this mistake today by just saying we’re going to demand more security,” Walcott said. “But that won’t stop people from needing support. It won’t stop people from being in those situations.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the city is still awaiting provincial funding to help improve transit safety announced in October.

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“To be fair, it was a different government. We have a new government that is making all kinds of commitments to our city and we hope to be able to access some of those funds quickly,” Gondek said.

However, Fleming told the council that public transport safety will be improved by increased ridership.

“One of the best strategies for making transit safer is actually getting ridership back,” Fleming said. “Now we have to find ways to keep people coming back more, and this frequent and reliable service is what it will take.”

Calgary Transit says 2 years needed to improve service as work continues on safety issues – Calgary

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