Hamilton Street Railway buses at King and MacNab in late September 2017. Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

The City of Hamilton’s public transit agency, the Hamilton Street Railway, is preparing to decrease bus service to summer levels of service as the number of drivers needing to isolate at home due to COVID exposures increases.

“The HSR Planning Department is putting together a ‘Summer Weekday’ service level board, as a contingency in the event that absenteeism does, in fact, become an issue due to the newest Omicron variant spreading,” reads a union notice sent to the HSR’s bus operators by email earlier this evening.

“At present, while there has been a rise in uncontrolled absenteeism (62 per day) with COVID-related absences contributing, it has not gotten to the point of an emergency yet, but the [HSR] is trying to get ahead of that becoming a reality.”

The latest City of Hamilton staffing report lists 623 staff within the HSR’s operations section.

City Hall no longer provides routine updates regarding the number of HSR bus operators, the 623 staff includes some managerial, administrative, and supervisory staff.

The contract between the City of Hamilton and Amalgamated Transit Union requires work to be assigned to operators using a seniority system.

HSR operators will sign a special COVID board starting on Sunday, January 9, 2022.

Previous HSR COVID reduced schedules included “extra” buses providing service at school bell times and on busier routes.

The HSR is not the only transit agency facing staff shortages due to COVID isolation requirements.

GO Transit is presently struggling to meet its scheduled service due to staffing shortages. The first train out of Hamilton’s West Harbour GO station this morning was cancelled due to a staff shortage.

Last week, Mayor Fred Eisenberger stated the next Hamilton City Hall public press conference regarding the COVID situation will be on January 10, 2022.

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