Saskatoon Transit Jumps into Innovation

Saskatoon Transit Jumps into Innovation: From left to right: Paul Bracken, Maintenance Manager, Saskatoon Transit and Rhaelene Wagner, Machinist, Saskatoon Transit.

 Saskatoon Transit has been making changes to improve the rider experience. Two recent changes are benefitting passengers: purchase of low floor or “kneeling” buses and the creation of the training jump seat. These changes support three of the City of Saskatoon’s (City) Strategic Goals: Moving Around, Continuous Improvement, and Environmental Leadership.

The City’s Moving Around Strategic Goal speaks to creating attractive options to alleviate vehicle congestion and ensure people and goods can move around the city quickly and easily. Low floor or “kneeling” buses allow greater accessibility for those with mobility challenges, removing stairs. Low floor buses simply pull up to a bus stop, and then, using pneumatics (pressurized air) to “kneel,” lower the bus floor to nearly level with the curb. Increased accessibility allows more citizens to use public transit, which in turn supports the City’s commitment to Environmental Leadership.

However, an unforeseen consequence of the low floor buses was that seats next to the Operator were removed from the floorplan. These seats were traditionally used by training staff to assist new Operators while learning to operate buses safely and becoming familiar with routes. Additionally, without a certified seat for a driver examiner available, the licensing process for new Operators would be negatively impacted.

Other municipalities and service providers have overcome this challenge by purchasing a customized removable seat for training staff to install as needed. These cost of the customized seats ranges from $5,000 to $7,000 each. The installation and removal of these types of seats requires floor panel removal and daily cleaning to ensure the installation area stays clear of dust and debris. Without daily cleaning, the dirt accumulated in this area makes attaching the seat nearly impossible and is unsightly for riders.

Tapping into the spirit of Continuous Improvement, Paul Bracken, Mitchell Pollard, and Rhaelene Wagner from Saskatoon Transit knew there was a better way. The group came together and, with a bit of creative thinking, designed and built the “jump seat”.

Bracken, Maintenance Manager with Saskatoon Transit, states “The idea came from necessity more than anything else.” He partnered with Rhaelene Wagner, Machinist, and Mitchell Pollard, Service Supervisor, to get the job done. Wagner built the initial prototype from parts retrieved from older high floor buses. After some design adjustments to improve the structural strength of the unit the team contacted SGI to move forward with approval for use on buses. Bracken says, “SGI was a wonderful partner to work with, assisting with the costs and the whole approval process.”

SGI brought Kova Engineering to the table to test the seat. The seat needed to be able to withstand 600 pounds of momentum in a frontal collision in order to be approved for use.  The seat was successful in all tests and was certified. The team was given approval and serial numbers to manufacture six units. Today, three jump seats have been built and are currently in use. Savings from the design and construction of these seats in-house is estimated to be approximately $10,000.

Bracken recalls, “The constant push to keep the process on track and moving forward was the toughest part. But now, I am really excited to get training started with our finished product in the new low floor buses.”  Saskatoon Transit training staff they say they are thrilled with the jump seat and that it’s clear that it was designed and built with their specific needs in mind. 

To encourage others pursuing proactive innovation Bracken says “It’s really important to see your idea through to the end if you’re convinced it’s going to work, even when it gets tough.” With that in mind, it’s clear that identifying an opportunity to innovate can have lasting impacts on improving service to citizens in Saskatoon.