Metro Transit is finally getting honest about their staffing problems, and cutting service to many routes.
This is in spite of a massive hiring effort on their part and at least two increases in starting wages I’ve noticed in the past year and a half.
When I was unemployed, I was looking very hard at that $19.45/hr rate they give you while you’re in training. I did apply, and even was accepted to a screening interview. Ultimately, I decided not to take the position. Being a bus driver is still too much to ask for that wage.
Here are some things that would have tipped the scales in favor of me accepting a position as a bus driver:
- Give people reasonable schedules. The new hire route is 30 hours a week, a split shift, working the morning and evening commutes to and from the suburbs. That puts you on extended office hours, but missing pay in the middle of the day. I would’ve taken 40, but I’d also have considered 20 or even 15 if the benefits were there.
- Have adequate shelters for the people who ride transit as a substitute for having shelter. Whether these get funded by the met council or the cities or the state or (god forbid) the feds, people need places to stay, and a bus or a train is not a place to stay.
- Put fares on the honor system, 100%. No enforcement whatsoever by the driver. Or, make it free.
- Bus-only lanes on all high traffic routes. Route 5, I’m looking at you. The suburban commuter route I used to ride did well on the shoulder of the freeway, but it must be awful trying to deal with roadside trash and construction and merging cars. Mnpass lanes everywhere the speed limit is over 45, please.
- Roll out those neat panels that protect drivers on every bus. I don’t want to have to have my guard up at all times while trying to stay on schedule and drive safely.
If all those things were in place or getting in place within the next year, I’d probably have accepted the position if they offered $25/hr. Driving a bus is a huge responsibility, taking literally dozens of lives into your hands every minute you’re on the road, and we need to acknowledge the skill and labor of the position with pay.
Under current conditions, driving a metro transit bus is probably worth more like $50/hr. Pay people what they’re worth, and you won’t have a “worker shortage”.