I’m serious. In the US, public transit is in grave trouble due to lack of staff. Here’s how bad it is at TriMet here in Portland.
TriMet would need to increase our current operator ranks by more than 300 to return service to pre-pandemic levels. In January, we reduced service by 9%, to better-match staffing levels; however, resignations, retirements, promotions and departures of operators for other reasons have continued to outpace hiring, leading to canceled buses and trains and system delays for riders.
Everything transit advocates have fought for could be destroyed by this problem.
Pay and benefits? A lot better than Uber!
TriMet has increased the starting pay for new bus operators to $25.24 per hour, and with regular, guaranteed pay raises, all operators earn $68,000 per year or more after three years on the job full time. In addition, TriMet bus operators receive a generous package of employment benefits, which includes no-to-low cost health insurance, life insurance, paid vacation and sick time, and a retirement plan with an 8% employer contribution. In addition, TriMet is offering all newly hired operators a $7,500 hiring bonus.
Plus there are very powerful labor unions looking out for you. It’s designed to be a stable long term job that you can build a life on.
These kinds of offers are now typical in many cities around the country.
So here’s the deal on driving a bus. (Note: Light rail train drivers usually start as bus drivers.)
- You have to enjoy driving safely.
- You have to deal with people. Some are wonderful and help you feel better about humanity. Most are harmless headphone-wrapped units of social isolation. Some are unpleasant. A few could be dangerous.
- You have to have an exercise routine to compensate for the sedentary nature of the job.
But all that’s true of Uber too!
This job is not for everyone, but anyone looking for a job in this wage/skill range should be considering it. Do you know one of these people? Do you meet groups of people who might fall in this category? Point them to your public transit authority’s website, where there’s probably a very prominent “we’re hiring!” box.
Because if nobody will do this job, we won’t have public transit anymore.