Fort McMurray brought its public transit services back in house after a failed foray into privatization.

Fort McMurray, Alberta

In 2013, Tok Transit Ltd. was awarded a 15-year contract for transit services in Fort McMurray. It wasn’t long before problems started to arise.

Complaints skyrocket

Less than two years later, an audit found serious issues with the service provided by Tok. Several targets outlined in the contract were missed by the private contractor, including delayed construction of a new bus facility as well as failure to implement a system that would give more real-time ridership information. Additionally, Tok had not provided important environmental monitoring and emergency plans. Customer satisfaction, not surprisingly, was plummeting, while complaints surged.

An audit highlights big problems

“There were about 10 to 15 areas of concern. A lot of it dealt with customer service, accountability and customer safety,” Director of Public Works Robert Kirby told the media. He added that several complaints heard by the auditors centered on specialized transit for seniors and people with disabilities.

Up to $2 million returns to the system

Based on the findings from the audit, the municipality cancelled its contract with Tok Transit. After weighing several options, Fort McMurray brought transit back in house, a move that Kirby said means $1-2 million in profits can be poured back into the public transit system. It also means that city staff and administrators can improve the system and begin addressing the concerns of frustrated residents. “We live in Fort McMurray, we’re part of the community, and we understand what the community’s needs are,” he said.