|Saskatchewan Transportation Company Canada|
The province is allocating a record $10 million operating grant to the Saskatchewan Transportation Co.
The provincial government is allocating a record operating grant to the Saskatchewan Transportation Co. (STC) again this year, but the minister responsible for the bus company says there isn't a "bottomless pit of money" available.
n 2003, the government provided the publicly owned bus company with an operating grant of $1.6 million. Although STC hasn't usually used the entire allocation during the last decade, the grant number has risen almost every year, reaching a record $10 million for 2013.
"It's certainly a concern of government and a concern of the whole STC board of governors," Mc-Morris said. "The board is looking at ways they can keep costs down and also supply service that many communities are expecting. We're also challenging the board and STC itself to have a strong look at that."
McMorris noted some factors are out of STC's control, pointing to recent route changes made by Greyhound that have negatively affected STC's ability to connect passengers to Alberta and Manitoba locations.
Candace Phelps, STC's executive director of strategic planning and communications, said STC relies on other bus companies "to bring passengers into Saskatchewan or through Saskatchewan or provide connections for our travellers heading out of Saskatchewan.
"It's going to be a challenge over the next few years to try and get our ridership to go back into that growth mode when it's not as convenient for them to get to destinations like Calgary and Edmonton or down east. So we've got some challenges ahead of us," she said.
STC's ridership has fluctuated, but the company was excited to see growth in 2010 and 2011, Phelps said. Complete numbers for 2012 weren't available, but ridership was trending downward as of the third quarter, she said, noting efforts were made to mitigate that.
"STC is a large organization that reaches across the province and it provides a public role in serving Saskatchewan people and communities," Phelps said, noting fuel and other operating costs have been rising.
"We're conscious of the fact that it is a grant from the government and taxpayer money, but we also want to make sure that we provide a quality service for our province," she added.
McMorris noted public transportation in Saskatchewan's two major cities is also heavily subsidized with public funds.
"STC is a company that of course has been in the province for a very long time. Many rural communities definitely rely on it," he said, noting STC hauls freight and moves blood supply around the province in addition to carrying passengers.
"We have to take all of that into consideration as we move forward, (but) we realize it's not a bottomless pit of money and decisions will have to be made," he added.