A new TransitCenter report, “Bus Operators in Crisis,” details the challenges American operators are facing and offers solutions transit agencies can take to solve issues locally. It also proposes steps that states and the federal government can take to support transit agencies in this effort.
According to the Transit Center report, a key cause of difficulties recruiting and retaining new workers is the steady deterioration of one of transit’s most essential jobs. The pay has not kept pace with the skyrocketing cost of living in cities across the country. At the same time, the job has become more difficult. Operator assaults have increased, rigid scheduling requirements make it difficult for junior operators with child or eldercare responsibilities, and a lack of access to restrooms on route and break rooms at depots exacts a health toll. The transit industry is losing these workers to delivery services and trucking companies, which often offer workers more flexibility and higher pay.
To tackle operator shortfalls, “Bus Operators in Crisis” makes the case the transit industry must make driving a bus a good job, a job with dignity, a job that is respected, well compensated, and rewarding. Adding that operators are the backbone of the transit industry, and deserve better pay, more flexibility, and safer working conditions. They also deserve paths for advancement within agencies, and the opportunity to have their voices heard.
The report lays out eight recommendations for how agencies can improve job quality for operators. It also issues recommendations for how state governments can help alleviate the shortfall by increasing the labor pool, and how the USDOT and Secretary Buttigieg can use the power of the federal government to call greater attention to the crisis.