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Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Bus Driver Shortage is an Emergency — Human Transit

I know we have a lot of emergencies and it’s hard to keep up, but many American transportation agencies are considering a devastating service cut because of a shortage of bus drivers. Drivers leave or retire much sooner than agencies can replace them. One friend told me that their agency loses 10 drivers for every one they hire.

Here in Portland, TriMet cuts 9% of its service, Even greater than the cuts in the Great Recession. I see similar cuts all over the US.

Can you blame the bus drivers? Work has always been hard, and now it is more dangerous in two ways: people breathe a lot on drivers, not always masked, and the mental health epidemic appears more rudely and in bad behavior. Worst of all, in some US cities there is an increase in attacks on drivers.

Meanwhile, there has been a huge increase in delivery jobs, some of which pay respectfully and do not involve dealing with people.

Transportation agencies do what they can, offering one-time sign-up bonuses. But the real problem is saving, and it’s hard to imagine how this would be solved without some addition in compensation, also known as operating cost. That means less service for the same operating dollar. And of course when the compensation goes up it does not go back down.

Before you jump on me: I believe that drivers should be well paid and meet high standards. I believe a bus driver, with an employed partner, should own a home and raise children. majority U.S. bus drivers are unionized and tend to do so relatively Good wages and benefits, certainly compared to non-union driving jobs. (One of my friends is a freelance software consultant but still drives a part-time bus just for health insurance.) I wish for all paid transportation jobs.

But in any case, this service cut is an emergency. They are not minor. They are not necessarily temporary, because at the moment it is not clear how the problem will improve. We can look at a continuing shrinkage in our transportation services, just when people are crying out for extended service and many agencies were on the way to providing it.

what can you do? Financing lawyer, but also:

  • Be kind to your bus driver. If you have a moment, watch them in action. Notice how hard their work is, and how much they have to deal with. Thanks to them.
  • Be kind to your public transportation agency management. This is a terrible moment for them. They are as appalled as you are at the need to cut the service. (You can be kind to them and still be angry at them for a few things. But rest assured that what you are angry about is really their fault. The lack of drivers is not.)

This advice may sound simplistic, but it is actually practical. Kindness is a powerful form of activism. Much of this can amount to a big change.

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