SAN ANTONIO – VIA aims to increase the frequency on its routes in order to make the service more reliable. But the COVID-19 pandemic is causing those plans to hit the road.
“We currently don’t have a good match for the amount of service we’re trying to perform and the number of operators available to do it,” said Jeff Arndt, President and CEO of VIA Metropolitan Transit.
The agency is therefore suggest frequency changes on half of its trips when VIA faces staff shortages, like many other sectors. VIA’s board of directors will vote on Tuesday to adopt the temporary changes.
“We have no choice but to close two days a week and then open at four in the afternoon,” Arndt said. “We have to run, you know, seven days a week. And so to do that, instead of shutting down, what we have to do is trim. “
Juan Amaya, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 694, said VIA has long had turnover issues and drivers are working overtime in response. In the past, VIA has been able to hire quickly, but a hiring freeze during the pandemic has changed this trend.
“I think the majority of the people who were here, a lot of them weren’t ready to retire, but because of COVID-19, they said, ‘Now I have time. I’m old enough, it’s time to go. ‘ Amaya said.
Amaya said the Delta variant made matters worse. Currently there are 50 to 60 drivers right now due to having COVID or having to quarantine. That’s over 800 bus drivers who are currently union members.
Amaya and Arndt both believe the situation will improve by the first 2022.
“We have classes and training right now, so we’re back in training,” said Arndt. “And so for me it’s a bump in the road and we can get back to the lines of frequent service, of extended service.”
The changes will not affect the expansion of the VIA Link on demand service, which extends to the northwest side next month.
If the board approves the changes, they will take effect on October 25.
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