Shortage of bus drivers undermines local transit systems nationwide

Difficulties faced by transit agencies of all sizes in hiring and keeping bus drivers are hurting their ability to bounce back from the many pandemic-related issues they face, an advocacy group has claimed in a new report. .

The lack of bus drivers has forced agencies to cut service or postpone system overhauls that could attract the riders agencies need to shore up their finances and reinvigorate their local economies. More … than seven out of 10 transit agencies reported in February that they had to cut or delay service because they were short on manpower.

If the problem persists, it could undermine those agencies’ ability to roll out cleaner buses or other improvements that may come from the new federal infrastructure law, TransitCenter warned. in his report.

“An increased rate of retirements, coupled with difficulties recruiting and retaining new operators, has played a key role in creating operator shortages. Even in the absence of a pandemic, transit agencies would face a shortage of workers,” the group wrote.

Transit shares many of the challenges that other government agencies face in attracting workers. Its workers are aging, making it difficult to replace all the baby boomers who have retired in recent years.

Recruiting new drivers is difficult, as potential candidates no longer see it as a reliable middle-class job, as wages have not kept up with the cost of living – particularly for housing, the group noted.

“Some of America’s most transit-rich cities are among the most expensive to live in, meaning many operators cannot afford to live in the cities they serve,” the group wrote. For example, only 42% of San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency bus drivers lived in the city in 2019, the report notes.

Many agencies require drivers to work for several years before they can reach their upper pay brackets, and drivers say there are fewer opportunities than in the past to be promoted to other jobs – such as a manager or a route planner – outside the driver’s seat.

Chris Van Eyken, the author of the report, said the job of bus driver had also “deteriorated” in recent years.

“Part of that is because work hasn’t kept up with people’s expectations in the workplace these days, but partly also because work has become less safe,” he said. . Drivers complain that riders try to start fights with them or spit on them.

Meanwhile, staff shortages are also contributing to stress, he said. With fewer drivers available, those who stay have less flexibility with their schedules. At work, they have less time between the routes they take and the facilities they have are often inadequate.

“Facilities, such as break rooms, are scarce and do not meet the needs of people in sedentary, stressful and time-consuming jobs. Break rooms are poorly furnished, lack comfortable seating, healthy food options, updated bathroom and toilet facilities, and even natural light in some cases,” Van Eyken wrote in the report. .

TransitCenter offered several ideas for agencies to help recruit and retain more bus drivers, including:

  • Better promote benefits to be a bus driver, beyond a simple salary. For example, many might show that their health insurance packages are more generous than those offered by private employers. They could play the role that motors play in connecting with community members and each other. Some candidates might be interested in the environmental benefits they offer by reducing vehicle trips, Van Eyken said. Road Fifty.
  • Improve the recruitment process by making job offers accessible and easy to find on the web. Agencies must be responsive and “not let applications go unanswered for weeks or months,” the report says. Many applicants could also use help getting their commercial driver’s license, he added.
  • Provide better facilities. Agencies could do this, for example, by starting and ending routes at transit centers that offer these amenities. Or agencies can apply for money from the Federal Infrastructure Act to upgrade their buildings, the TransitCenter suggested.
  • Make buses safer for drivers. In Europe, operators often have better partitions to separate them from customers and often have a separate door to allow them to enter and exit without passing through passengers, Van Eyken noted. The report also urged agencies to develop systems so drivers no longer have to collect fares. “As U.S. transit agencies purchase new buses – with the transition to all electric fleets across the country – there is an opportunity to also reconsider internal design and provide more protection for bus drivers” , Van Eyken wrote in the report.

The group said state governments could improve the situation by better funding public transit systems, speeding up the process of obtaining commercial driver’s licenses and expanding the potential workforce to include people with criminal records. legal or with a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

For more information on the report Click here.

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