KITCHENER -- Guelph Transit says express routes to the University of Guelph will be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will also be staff layoffs as the transit system maintains its current schedule.

The city said only 1,000 students are expected to attend the university in-person classes in September. City council voted to release the Students' Association from its contract with Guelph Transit, forecasting a loss of $3.5 million per semester.

The city says it looked at several options to offset the financial losses, including reducing fuel, maintenance and operating costs.

Nine full-time operators, along with eight part-time operators, will be laid off as of Sept. 6. The city said 14 other positions will remain vacant.

“We’re sorry we’re not able to keep these operators on our team. They stepped up during COVID-19 to help keep front-line workers working and get people to grocery stores and medical appointments. We are so grateful for their service to our community,” says the city's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Public Services Colleen Clack in a news release.

The city will receive $5.1 million from the provincial and federal governments as part of the Safe Restart Program.

“While provincial and federal emergency funds do provide much-needed relief right now, they are not a sustainable revenue source. We don’t know when ridership will return to normal levels, and we still need to operate transit responsibly and efficiently,” says Clack. “With up to 60 per cent fewer riders, we simply don’t need to run as many buses as often.”

Service will change based on ridership, the city says.

Post-secondary students can buy a semester pass for $272. Students living in Guelph with an annual income of less than $22,759 a year can also apply for an affordable bus pass.

All transit routes will operate on a 30-minute schedule Monday to Saturday. Sunday schedules remain unchanged.