PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – TriMet riders have expressed concern amid an ongoing driver shortage following recent alerts of delays on some lines.
Officials with TriMet say that their attempts to hire more operators by bumping up pay and signup bonuses has brought on hundreds of new drivers with 40 new drivers in training, but attrition is currently higher than anticipated.
Typically, the transit service aims to have backup workers for when drivers inevitably call out sick. But lately, Tia York said those backups have been hard to come by.
“Generally, and ideally, we have that backup, that bench. We call it the extra board. It’s kind of like our pool of substitute teachers,” York said. “That’s something that’s really been lacking as we’ve dealt with this operator shortage.”
TriMet says they get about 70 applications each week and have made changes to attract more drivers – like being able to move quicker from a bus driver to a MAX operator.
Starting pay is about $52,000 a year – and will increase to $6,000 more by the end of the year. TriMet also raised the signup bonus to $7,500, though drivers don’t get all of it until they’ve been on the job for three years.
York said that safety conditions can be a factor in their ongoing struggle to hire.
“I think the conditions in the city certainly have an impact,” York said. “Our bus drivers, they’re out there every day dealing with the stuff that everyone else sees. They’re dealing with it firsthand.”