March_2022 - 13

COV ID - 19 Re cove r y
Riders are Coming Back but
Where are
the Drivers?
While the world is learning to live with COVID-19,
agencies are struggling to meet new service
demands due to an industry-wide labor shortage.
By Megan Perrero, associate editor
A
s restrictions begin to lift and
the world shifts its attitude
to " living with COVID-19, "
agencies are reporting upticks
in ridership, such as
the New York Metropolitan
Transportation Authority,
the Metropolitan
Council and the San Diego Metropolitan
Transit System.
While the increasing ridership
trend is welcome news, there
has been an equal if not greater
number of announcements from
agencies saying they are limiting
services due to a driver shortage.
To highlight this phenomenon,
the Shared-Use Mobility Center
(SUMC) released a report in November
2021, " Managing the Labor
Shortage at Transit Agencies, "
that documents the drastic drop
in transit industry employees,
saying from " March to April of
2020, employment in the transit
and ground passenger transportation
industry fell from about
498,000 to 321,000 employees. "
While the drop is significant,
this labor shortage has been years
in the making; it was just exacerbated
by the pandemic, explains a
report released February 2022 by
the Alliance for a Just Society, the
Labor Network for Sustainability
and TransitCenter.
Take Steamboat Springs Transit
(SST) in Steamboat Springs,
Colo., for instance-a ski resort
area with a heavy reliance on
seasonal drivers. Jonathan Flint,
transit manager for SST, explains
filling the seasonal driver roster
has always been a challenge, but
was making progress by working
with areas that have an opposite
seasonal demand.
" We had made that successful
up until COVID-19 hit, [then] we
started losing some of our drivers, "
Flint shared.
But agencies' successful recovery
from the pandemic rides on
their ability to retain and recruit
staff to meet the growing demand.
This year marks a pivotal point
for the industry in how it chooses
to better invest in the workforce
and job equity to attract and retain
quality talent.
Understanding the
Labor Shortage
Flint explains the initial concerns
about personal health and all the
unknowns of COVID-19 back in
March 2020 contributed to the
loss of drivers, and while SST reports
only three drivers contracting
the virus, this has affected the
agency's current ability to retain
and recruit drivers.
" A lot of them began
to leave the market, either
through retirement or resignation.
It's been an ongoing
issue, " Flint said.
This trend is not unique
to SST. According to the
report from SUMC, as of
2020, the average age of the
transit workforce was 42.2
years, while the average age
for all transportation industries
was 25.2 years and the
average age for all industries
was 23.9 years. Nate Seeskin, a program
associate at SUMC, adds the
work environment, compounded
by the higher median age, could
also be a contributing factor.
" Even though
technology has
made dramatic
improvements, we
still need that human
interaction. We
need that driver. "
- JONATHAN FLINT,
transit manager, SST
MARCH 2022 | MassTransitmag.com | Mass Transit | 13
http://www.MassTransitmag.com

March_2022

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of March_2022

Editor’s Notebook
People & Places
Riders are Coming Back but Where are the Drivers?
Turning a BRT Line into a Successful Network
Capital Programs Strike Steady Pace
How the Village of Bedford Park and Uber Connect People to Jobs
Sound Transit Driving Consensus Against All Odds
Products
Best Practices
March_2022 - 1
March_2022 - 2
March_2022 - 3
March_2022 - 4
March_2022 - 5
March_2022 - Editor’s Notebook
March_2022 - 7
March_2022 - People & Places
March_2022 - 9
March_2022 - 10
March_2022 - 11
March_2022 - Riders are Coming Back but Where are the Drivers?
March_2022 - 13
March_2022 - 14
March_2022 - 15
March_2022 - Turning a BRT Line into a Successful Network
March_2022 - 17
March_2022 - 18
March_2022 - 19
March_2022 - Capital Programs Strike Steady Pace
March_2022 - 21
March_2022 - 22
March_2022 - 23
March_2022 - How the Village of Bedford Park and Uber Connect People to Jobs
March_2022 - 25
March_2022 - 26
March_2022 - 27
March_2022 - Sound Transit Driving Consensus Against All Odds
March_2022 - 29
March_2022 - 30
March_2022 - 31
March_2022 - Products
March_2022 - 33
March_2022 - Best Practices
March_2022 - 35
March_2022 - 36
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