Citing staff shortage during COVID-19, Halifax Transit cuts back on weekday service

Halifax Transit is making a sharp cut to its weekday service, citing a shortage of staff during the COVID-19 outbreak in Nova Scotia.

Starting Monday, it’s targeting a 30-per-cent reduction in bus service from Monday to Friday, while weekend service remains unaffected.

“We are down in terms of the number of operators who are at work right now,” said Halifax Transit president Dave Reage.

“We absolutely recognize that does put the burden on other people, who are working a lot of extra hours.”

Some routes will continue regular operations, while others will operate on a Saturday schedule throughout the week. The 41, 63 and 93 routes are the only routes being eliminated entirely.

The news comes as Nova Scotia announced its 15 case of COVID-19 — five confirmed and 10 presumptive.

On Thursday, the municipality took sweeping measures to promote social-distancing and reserve its resources for essential services.

It waived fees for all its parking spot meters and restricted parking enforcement to safety-related regulations and residential permits only. Customer service desks were shut down, as were community centres, pool, libraries, arenas and other communal spaces.

Earlier this week, the municipal also reduced the service schedule for Halifax Transit’s ferries, and requested that Access-A-Bus passengers limit their trips to doctor’s appointments, dialysis, prescription retrieval and vital errands.

Halifax Transit has already waived its fees, passenger capacity was reduced, and drivers were provided with personal protective equipment.

On Friday, municipal officials reminded residents that they must practice social distancing until further notice.

“With the weekend coming up, it’s important to remember that COVID-19 isn’t taking a break and neither will we,” said Halifax Mayor Mike Savage.

The city’s parks and trails remain open for public use, he added, and while the libraries’ physical branches remain closed, many books, activities and services are available on their websites.

For the second day in a row, the municipality has declined to reveal how many of its staff have been tested for COVID-19 or are in self-isolation, including police and firefighters.

Essential services, it maintains, have not impacted by the pandemic.

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