Calgary Transit is celebrating its operators this Monday, a little ahead of the internationally-recognized Transit Driver Appreciation Day, which occurs on March 18 each year.
The goal is to celebrate drivers the way the organization did before the pandemic and to remind customers about the work that transit staff have been undertaking to get the service back to pre-pandemic levels.
“It’s really important just to make sure that they recognize how much we appreciate them, how much our customers appreciate them, and to celebrate the return of transit back to where it used to be prior to the pandemic,” said Sharon Fleming, Director of Calgary Transit.
“While we have been celebrating it every year, this year we’re able to do it more broadly because we don’t have any Covid restrictions.”
Fleming said that as part of Thank Your Driver Day celebrations in Calgary, the service is launching a web portal where Calgarians can submit their experiences with drivers.
“For every bad story, there are hundreds of great stories every day, and we don’t always hear those stories. We’d love for our customers to share those stories with us,” said Fleming.
Calgary Transit has also created a #ThanksCT hashtag for social media.
Recognition feels great
Kenrick Johnson, an operator with Calgary Transit, said that being recognized was great and that he’s looking forward to hearing from Calgarians.
“I am a people person,” he said.
“Sometimes they’ll tell me you have a nice smile. I really enjoy how you work. You’re a very nice driver.”
He said that as part of his work, he tries to do what he can to help the public, even when they have a negative experience.
“You gotta have the personality to deal with this stuff, and when you have that personality, it makes it easier whenever those things come at you,” Johnson said.
“You’re able to brush it off. Let the person feel like, ‘OK, it’s not so bad’ and be positive about the situation, and instead of making it negative it becomes positive and then they’ll be willing to ride transit again.”
He said that during the pandemic operators were doing what they could to help people, including letting people use the rear exit to board busses to help people avoid getting sick. But now, he’s looking forward to seeing more riders on his buses again.
“We’re getting more ridership, and it’s good for transit because they’re getting more customers, more support, and things seem to get better every day,” Johnson said.
CTrains up, but focus is on getting people back on to buses
Fleming said that a focus for the service this year will be to increase lagging ridership on Calgary Transit buses.
Last week numbers were released for January 2023 which showed that CTrain usage for that month had exceeded the levels for January 2019. Bus boarding by comparison has lagged, remaining at about 63 per cent of their pre-pandemic levels.
“There’s a significant push to get that bus service back up to 100 per cent by the end of the year,” she said.
“That is where our priority will be: Restoring the service hours back to 2019 levels.”
She said that Calgary Transit would be continuing to watch the ridership numbers and that they would be tweaking the service to meet demand as the year progresses.