The Director of Transit has provided a comprehensive update on delays we are experiencing in the transit system. The situation is similar to what the City is experiencing in other departments (recreation, library services, etc.) and that many businesses and governments across Canada are experiencing – recruitment and retention challenges and time off for illness.
Due to a number of factors impacting our operator staffing levels, Winnipeg Transit has recently been experiencing DNO (Did Not Operate) buses. While it is not new for Winnipeg Transit to experience DNOs occasionally, over the past few weeks they have become a more regular occurrence. I want to provide you with some background information on why this is happening, the impact this is having on our service and what efforts we are making to mitigate the issue.
What are DNOs?
In order to ensure we have enough operators for our service schedule, we schedule spare operators each day to cover the buses assigned to operators who call in absent. When the number of absent operators becomes higher than the number of spare operators available, select buses without operators available are designated DNO. Once this takes place, customers will be able to see that an affected bus has been cancelled by checking their online schedules.
How does Transit choose which buses to DNO?
Buses and operators are assigned to individual schedules, which often include multiple routes throughout the day. Our schedules are created this way to maximize service hours. Some buses operate all day, while others operate only during peak periods.
When deciding which buses to DNO, our dispatch employees rely on a list of buses that would have the least impact to customers if cancelled. These buses include routes with more frequent service, or routes serving areas where alternate routes are available. In addition to the DNO list, dispatch employees balance a number of moving variables while making quick decisions, and may shift operators who have reported early for work to buses that are a high priority.
Buses are considered a high priority to operate if:
- they operate all-day service;
- they operate in industrial areas with limited service;
- they include the first or last trip out of a specific area;
- they include a trip adjacent to one that is DNO already (whenever possible, we want any customer affected by a cancelled bus to be able to hop on the next one)
Why are DNOs happening? Is this unusual?
While we never want to see DNOs, what we are experiencing currently is intermittent and is limited to the peak periods (rush hours). At this time, we are experiencing DNOs 1-3 times per week, affecting approximately 1% or less of our daily service hours.
We are experiencing an increase in operator absenteeism, including longer recovery times before returning to work.
The pandemic has led to an upheaval in overall labour market trends, and like other industries, and other transit systems across Canada, we have experienced challenges in the area of operator recruitment and retention. Our human resources employees have made strides in outreach to attract new applicants, and have taken steps to streamline our hiring processes in an effort to remove barriers, and we will continue working to fill current vacancies.
How are customers informed?
When buses are designated DNO, they will show up as cancelled on online schedules. Additionally, we share information on social media reminding passengers to check schedules before taking the bus.