Transit Windsor operating at a ‘significant loss’, needs more funding

WINDSOR, ONT. —
Transit Windsor continues to serve Windsor residents despite a significant drop in ridership and officials say services could be in jeopardy unless there’s more government funding.

As Windsor returns to Red-Control status, Transit Windsor continues to operate on an enhanced Saturday service schedule, Monday through Saturday, until ridership figures indicate additional service is required; Sunday service will continue on the Sunday schedule.

Transit Windsor continuously monitors capacity on busses and high-frequency routes to add additional vehicles when required.

The City of Windsor and Transit Windsor have been monitoring and analyzing ridership figures since the return to front door boarding began in October 2020. As a result of the continuing pandemic, current ridership has been reduced by about 85 per cent as compared to pre-pandemic figures from January and February 2020.

“We’ve continued to operate the transit system at a significant loss,” says Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens. “So far this year, we are averaging only 14 per cent ridership load as compared to this time last year, pre-pandemic. To help fund the continued operations at Transit Windsor, the annual operating subsidy has increased by 40 per cent, and this is simply not sustainable.

Dilkens says the federal and provincial governments need to come to the table with operating funding for 2021, the same as they did last year, otherwise the services offered by the City of Windsor, such as public transit, “will be at risk.”

2021 Budget

In 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, the City of Windsor provided a taxpayer funded transit levy of $13.6 million to help operate the municipal transit system. For 2021, the proposed 2021 City of Windsor Budget estimates that $21.1 million will be required to off-set the decline in ridership, lower fares, and higher costs related to personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning.

As a result of the Safe Restart Agreement between the federal government and the Province of Ontario, Transit Windsor has been allocated over $19 million in Phase 1 and Phase 2 funding to support continued operations up to March 31, 2021.

“Without additional pandemic-related operating support to cover the balance of 2021 pressures due to COVID, the City of Windsor may have to review ongoing transit operations and schedules,” said a news release.

Mask Policy and Capacity Limits

Following the best advice of public health experts, the mandatory mask policy will remain in effect indefinitely, and capacity limits will continue in order to allow for social distancing on board.

Health Unit Guidance

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has published recommendations for riders, including the following:

Discouraging use of transit service if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms,

Recognizing that public transit is currently provided for essential trips only, and

Recommending consideration of other forms of transportation, such as walking or cycling.

Passengers should refer to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit recommendations as they make plans to use Transit Windsor buses.