Pierce Transit 2002 New Flyer C40LF CNG 174
Pierce Transit bus in Tacoma (source: Shane Ramkissoon on Flickr)

Beginning Sunday, November 7th, Pierce Transit will reduce service on some routes, including some PT-operated ST Express routes, due to persistent shortage of bus operators. The hope is that with service reduced to match the level of service that current operators can reliably provide, trip cancellations will be much rarer, and you can be more reasonably sure that scheduled bus service will be delivered. Here are the changes by route:

Route 1

Frequency will be reduced from every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 20-30 minutes on Saturdays to every 30 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays.

Route 2

Weekday headways similarly will go from every 20 minutes to every 30 minutes.

Route 11

Weekday headways will go from every 30 minutes to every 60 minutes, with a few half-hourly trips in the AM and PM for SAMi students.

Route 16

Frequencies will go from half-hourly to hourly on weekdays.

Route 400

Trip times will be adjusted to align with deleted trips on Sound Transit Express route 580.

Route 500

Service will go back to hourly on weekdays and Saturdays, down from the current half-hourly service on those days.

ST 566

Reverse-peak service will be eliminated, and some peak-direction service will be reduced as well. Reduced route 566 will be like other peak-direction commuter service, except with a few more later morning and a few more early afternoon trips that is usual for this kind of service.

ST 577

Weekday peak service headways will go from 8-15 minutes to 10-15 minutes.

ST 580

Service along SR 512 to Lakewood is suspended, and service will be reduced. PT route 400 will fill in some missing service, so that all Sounder trips will connect to either a route 400 or route 580 bus.

ST 590

Service will be reduced to operate every 10-15 minutes, down from mostly every 10 with periods of 5 minute headways currently.

ST 592

Service will be reduced to around every 30 minutes, compared to today’s service with 30 minute headways and 15 minute headways in the busiest times. The first and last trips have also changed a bit.

ST 594

No reductions, but adjustments to trip times.

Looking ahead

Sound Transit has big plans for 2022, with the centerpiece arguably being all-day, all-week frequent service from both Tacoma and Federal Way to Seattle (all of which will be operated by Pierce Transit). But staffing shortages threaten those improvements, since they can’t really add more service if they don’t have enough drivers for the service they’re supposed to be providing today. Finally, it goes without saying that if you can drive and are looking for a job, take a look at Pierce Transit.

52 Replies to “Pierce Transit reduces bus service due to operator shortages”

  1. These are very significant service reductions — like 25-40 percent of their service. This is concerning.

  2. True story –

    I have a friend who lives in Tacoma and drives for a living. His driving record for the past decade is spotless but he did have a number of infractions in his early 20’s. I’ve been thinking about pushing him to apply, so I sent an email asking for more details about the driving history requirement back in September – I sent it to the email address list for questions about the job posting. Haven’t heard a peep.

    To be honest I’m not sure if he’d apply for it as is. The lack of a guarantee of more than 25 hours a week, combined with the lack of any schedule consistency, is a pretty big barrier.

    1. You can log onto the WA DOL website and get of copy of your driving record. There is a time limit but I forget how far back it goes. I’m pretty sure it’s less than 7 years. With the current shortage you (your friend) would move up quickly in seniority. The benefits which include a State pension are hard to beat. OTOH, it’s a service job so if you don’t want to interact with the general public then it’s not a good fit. If number of hours are an issue there’s signing up as a part time (on call) driver for the school district. It would be a grind for a while but I’d bet PT would be bringing new hires full time within a year given the current circumstances. If seniority is done the same way it is with BSD people coming back after leaving for any period of time start at the bottom of the seniority scale.

      1. Believe it or not, this is actually about a friend and not me. I guess the point I’m trying to get at is that there are some things they could do if they want to attract more drivers.

        Some of them might require some work (revising the number of guaranteed hours for trainees so people don’t take a pay-cut coming in). But some of them are fairly easy – like responding to inquiries about job requirements.

  3. Get your CDL first, then get $22/hour for 10 weeks, $23/hour for 6 months, then $24/hour indefinitely…all part-time…then you wait based on seniority for a full-time job that pays…wait for it…$25/hour to start. That’s a lot of waiting and a lot of uncertainty for not a lot of money.

  4. The fact that bus drivers are completely exposed to riders without any real way to escape or protect themselves if things get nasty is incredible and a big reason I would never apply for the role – I can imagine it’s a reason for others as well. Why can’t a passenger approach a pilot, a ferry captain, a train engineer, or any other form of public transit service “driver”? Safety. Why can a passenger on a bus, however, hop into the driver’s lap, grab the wheel, or spit on a driver? I’ve lived in different cities where I’ve heard of or seen drivers vomitted upon, spat upon, and even had cups of urine thrown at them. We’ve heard of the horrible accident on the Aurora bridge where the bus driver was shot on 11/27/98 and the bus drove off the bridge – why didn’t we separate all regional public bus drivers from passengers from that point forward?

    Having lived in several places in Europe, the difference is stark where a driver is behind a key-locked, plexiglass impenetrable door that a rider cannot reach over or through (would’ve also been helpful with COVID). The driver can still chat with passengers through small bank-like drilled holes or disembark to assist as needed, but they aren’t having to both look over their shoulder and watch the road. It’s time these drivers are fully physically secure in these jobs – especially with the many challenges specific to Puget Sound regarding mental health services and expectations of public servants to do both their jobs and provide social services for which they aren’t trained.

    1. For better or worse, a significant portion of continental European bus operators actually do not have operator cabs, e.g. German-speaking countries, Southeast Europe. There is typically only a ~handrail height barrier on most buses.

    2. Passengers have similar levels of exposure to other passengers, so if muggings on a bus is that much a risk, you shouldn’t have a transit system at all.

      My take is that the risk is much exaggerated. A bus driver is probably more likely to be killed in a car crash on the way to work than by a passenger at work.

      Also worth noting, plexiglass shields do almost nothing for COVID. The viruses just go around it.

      In the meantime, bus drivers still insist that everyone exit at the back, so instead of passing within a few feet of the bus driver for two seconds, you have to brush past all the other passengers on board to reach the exit. Like the plexiglass shields, this policy also accomplishes nothing.

      What policies actually work? Masks and vaccinations.

      1. I’m glad ATU isn’t blaming vax mandates for the operator shortage, when the continuing presence of COVID-19 and relatively low vaccination rates (general public, I don’t know about the work force) in Pierce County are more to blame. That, and people moving on to less-public-facing jobs. There could be a temporary shortage due to operators having to take time off to get vaccinated, and then call out sick for a day or two if the shot leaves them too drowsy to drive.

        As feeble as the plastic shields may be, especially when the operator has to pull the shield around as passengers start boarding, I don’t want to get into a game of which-measures-work-best-so-lets-drop-the-others that too many people are buying into. That includes the CDC, when they came up with the ridiculous guidance to let the vaccinated stop wearing their masks everywhere, so most of the vaccinated mostly kept wearing their masks, and the COVID-hoaxers, largely unvaccinated, started taking their masks off everywhere, to the extent they ever wore a mask.

        Now OSHA is partially resurrecting that stupidity by allowing vaccinated people to take off their masks in some workplaces, and so offices are going to become more dangerous to work in again, to the extent people are working in offices. What is the point of a vax mandate if those who are vaccinated get to remove their other protections, making them roughly as dangerous to their co-workers as they were before they got vaccinated? Yeah, it improves the odds that the person vaccinated against their will will survive getting COVID, but that logic won’t hold up in court. The added protection to people around them (and the option to quit) is what makes the mandate Constitutionally sound. OSHA might have just opened themselves up to getting the supremes to shut down the mandate.

        At any rate, the protections need to be cumulative, not value-engingeered down, if we want to get rid of this pestilence (the virus, not the hoaxers).

        The transit agencies need to discipline operators who don’t wear their masks while driving in revenue service. One or two talkings-to is a lot cheaper than a lawsuit claiming permanent disability damages over a disability caused in the line of duty.

      2. “…making them roughly as dangerous to their co-workers as they were before they got vaccinated”

        For the record from Oxford:

        “When infected with the delta variant, a given contact was 65 percent less likely to test positive if the person from whom the exposure occurred was fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.”

      3. Ron,

        Are you saying that vaccinations result in false negatives among people infected by the fully vaccinated, or are you saying that full vaccination is less effective at stopping the spread than wearing a mask?

      4. I don’t think you can say that wearing masks is more effective than the vaccine from the standpoint of occupational safety. They are both very good at preventing the spread of disease. I have no idea which is better, but neither is perfect. But there is another issue to consider. Someone who has been vaccinated is way less likely to be deathly ill. From the standpoint of occupation safety, this matters. If people aren’t vaccinated, a spread will result in a dozen people without symptoms, half a dozen calling in sick (for several days), and one of them dying. If people are vaccinated, you will get a dozen people with either mild or non-existent symptoms.

        From an employment standpoint, getting vaccinated — just as a means of improving workplace safety — is quite reasonable. OSHA is full of rules that protect the individual doing the work, and a vaccine would appear to be quite similar in that regard.

  5. These cuts are brutal. There is essentially no decent bus service anywhere in Pierce County in the middle of the day.

  6. Does anyone know where the drivers went? Did they just stop working, and if so how can they afford that? Or did they take other jobs? The posts focus on the issues around becoming a full time PT driver, but obviously there were sufficient drivers pre-pandemic so the shortage has to do with existing drivers not returning to work.

    According to some buses have no higher risk of Covid than general society, and now there are vaccines and protections for drivers. I agree in the current environment being a bus driver is an exposed occupation, but it always has been, especially in the dark.

    Until we know why existing drivers have not returned to work we don’t know how to address the shortage. It may have little to do with pay, benefits or schedules. After all, we are seeing worker shortages throughout the economy, although the U.S. labor market added 551,000 jobs last month.

    1. I don’t know for sure, but here are some thoughts.

      Some drivers retired over the last couple years because they hit retirement age. Perhaps COVID encouraged some folks to retire early. Perhaps the service hour reductions meant they weren’t necessarily replacing retirees and left a backlog to hire.

      Regardless – I am astounded by the hypothesis that attracting labor in the middle of a tight labor market would have “little to do with pay, benefits, or schedules”.

      People can earn more and work better hours by driving for a FedEx contractor right now.

      1. Brendan, you miss the question I was raising. Why is there a labor shortage? Not just bus drivers but truck drivers. Pre-pandemic the unemployment rate was under 4%, an historical low, so there was definitely a labor shortage then.

        Starbucks pays $15/hr. So does Amazon’s warehouses. People are working there. So the hourly rate and benefits to drive a PT bus seem competitive, although maybe the part time start is an issue.

        I don’t know the answer. Pre-pandemic $22/hr to start with full benefits and a defined pension benefit would have been attractive, and apparently was since there was not a driver shortage. So what changed? Did all the drivers find higher paying jobs, and if so where?

      2. Like most things, it is complicated. Economists say changing demographics like ageing and retiring workers are a factor behind the shortages, as well as border controls and immigration limits, and demands for better pay and flexible working arrangements. (https://www.cnbc.com/2021/10/20/global-shortage-of-workers-whats-going-on-experts-explain.html).

        A lot of people retired. Many were laid off, and used that opportunity to switch jobs (which might involve going to school). Meanwhile, a lot of people who could take a job as a bus driver haven’t considered it because of Covid. Not only do they not want the risk, but until recently, they assumed there were no openings. Businesses and agencies are reluctant to raise salaries, partly because they aren’t sure if the shortage will last. Even if they did, they would have to get the money from somewhere. The economy can’t change gears very quickly, although it can slam on the breaks very fast.

      3. Daniel – I think you’re mistaken about some of this. Starbucks and Amazon ARE having trouble hiring. Starbucks just announced within the last month that they’re raising wages:


        Amazon is also having trouble and in September they upped their average starting wage to $18/hour. They are also touting increased scheduling choice and flexibility.


        Meanwhile, Pierce Transit is offering $22/hour but only guaranteeing 25 hours – and they say that the average number of hours for an RTO right now is 35. Working 25 hours at $22/hour nets you the same amount of money as a fulltime job that pays $13.75. That’s minimum wage in Washington. If you work 35 hours at $22/hour, that is the equivalent of $19.25/hour at a full time job – not that far ahead of Amazon. Meanwhile, both Amazon and Starbucks should provide more schedule stability since you’re not in an on-call “relief” role.

        On top of this, the background check and qualification requirements for Pierce Transit is higher, so they’re hiring out of a smaller pool of potential applicants than either of those companies.

        And finally, if you search Indeed for driver’s jobs in Tacoma, the situation looks even more dire. The first hit I get is for an Amazon delivery driver, no CDL required, paying $21.50/hour, full-time, with a $3,000 hiring bonus.

        UPS is hiring driver HELPERS at $27/hour.
        FedEx contractors are offering $17-$22/hour, full-time, and some of them include a signing bonus.

        End of the day, Pierce Transit is offering a competitive hourly wage, but it looks like it works out to less money overall. The on-call and irregular scheduling is going to be a big drawback (even a dealbreaker) for some folks. And finally, the applicant requirements are higher, meaning they’ve got a smaller pool. About the only thing they have going for them is a superior benefits package (though I hear UPS is pretty good) and that’s often the least salient part of the hiring package for a lot of people.

      4. This is the result of the reduction in immigration and is welcomed by Republicans. There’s nothing like a little bout of inflation to scare the rubes into voting against their interests for years.

      5. nothing like a little bout of inflation to scare the rubes into voting against their interests
        More of the elitist basket of deplorables speak. Keep it coming for the next two years please!

      6. TT, you are an odd sort of progressive common in Seattle: you disdain common labor, but love bigger government to help that labor once that labor is destroyed.

        You would have been well received by the Bush II/Cheney/Chamber of Commerce wing of the Republican Party, that sees most things in terms of labor vs. capital.

        The goal of course is to break unions, and to lower the cost of labor. The best way to do that is relax immigration of illegal workers who drive down wages, and of course cannot file claims for work place injuries, OSHA violations, overtime, you name it.

        You are absolutely correct that part of the increase in wages today is due to Trump’s restrictions on illegal immigration, and the capital class disliked him for that, because he increased labor costs that reduced the profit off of labor. And if you are retired on a fixed income inflation is like cancer and I understand that too.

        The funny thing is labor likes the dignity and independence of working, if they are not competing against desperate illegal labor. They really don’t want to rely on the government if there are good paying jobs, but that defeats the goal of progressives: to destroy the independence of labor. They don’t want the common labor who didn’t go to fancy colleges to know they can vote against progressives because their livelihood doesn’t depends on government. Reagan understood that, which is why he flipped blue collar workers, and Republicans are starting to do well with legal Hispanic workers, because they are most harmed by illegal immigration.

        My guess is in 2022 illegal immigration will be the biggest issue, more than Afghanistan and inflation. Progressives really don’t like labor, certainly unwashed independent labor, and they have very soft hands without callouses, and what we are seeing in the supply shortages today is progressives prefer to not work as longshoreman, drive semi’s, be police officers, or God forbid serve in the military.

        You complain about the lost sense of common purpose. Bring back the draft, without any age restriction, and you would see that common sense of purpose return. And you would learn to shoot a rifle and pistol, which is quite fun, unless of course someone is shooting back.

        The reason there is so little common sense of purpose is because too many sacrifice too little for this county, and I am guilty of that, although I do pay a lot of taxes.

        But not fucking close to $72,000 in SALT taxes that will turn me against the D’s forever if they do that, which is the point I think Pelosi is trying to make despite her $30,000 refrigerator and labor exemption she got for her husband’s business in Guam.

      7. I do not “disdain common labor”. I disdain uneducated people with widely available skills who think that somehow if “government gets off my back” they’ll become millionaires.

        I disdain people who think that if they give the sweating guy thumping the bible at the front of the church more of their meager income God will guarantee that million comes tomorrow.

        I disdain people who receive government benefits wrenched from the grasping hands of Country Club Republicans by Democrats decades ago but hate the programs that provide those benefits because tawny people get them also.

        I disdain the cat-calling swagger of what I see as the “truck-nuts caucus”, a bunch of resentful “trades” members who vote for the very people who WOULD “bust their union” given half a chance.

        What Reagan “knew” is that if you lie to uneducated people often and consistently enough and call those who object some sort of name they’ll believe anything, even that down is up.

        Democracy requires that the voters be well-informed and have some sense that what benefits others also benefits me — “solidarity” in short.

        Reagan understood that our economy could drive the Soviet Union into the ground and thereby avoided nuclear war with them. Every American should admire and respect him for that. But he is the American equivalent of Joseph Goebbel’s in his willingness to lie to gain power.

        He set the template for the Republicans’ Gotterdammerung of “free-market” frenzy.

      8. And just for the record, I also disdain “pie-in-the-sky” leftism that believes one can borrow oneself (or one’s country) into prosperity for short-term consumption.

        Investments in truly useful infrastructure and in proper and rigorous — with D’s and F’s liberally awarded for lax effort — education of the young and disadvantaged are OK for borrowing.

        People like me on Medicare should have a lifetime maximum, after which only palliative care is provided.

        I won’t provide anything to society now or in the future, except maybe some practical transportation ideas. Someone else would come up with anyway.

      9. What looks like a labor shortage is partially the creation of new jobs, or re-opening positions that got furloughed. Amazon is creating a lot of the new jobs, and can’t hire fast enough to fill the new positions. Transit agencies are restoring service, but not able to cover the newly-restored service fast enough.

        Metro has always had this problem. They’d freeze hiring during a recession, then end up building overtime into their work packets once they got the funding to add more service. I recall saying this is exactly what would happen when they did their first-ever furlough last summer.

        Now, transit agencies are competing with each other. Former PT drivers can get picked up at Metro for higher wages and possibly better benefits, with a few months’ of suffering through part-time/on-call before having enough seniority to go full-time. Same with school bus drivers. Metro has come out of this relatively unscathed by grabbing up drivers from elsewhere. PT is not at the bottom of that barrel.

        School bus driving is worse, with little hope of ever going full-time, and no guarantee they won’t be fired en masse every few years when the school board majority flips and fires the contractor. Oh, and school bus drivers look for and find better-paying jobs during the summer. Until school boards hire bus drivers in-house, and treat them with benefits similar to teaching so they don’t have to get a summer job (but I think lots of teachers have to resort to that, too) there will be periodic driver shortages, like, every fall when schools open again. Other transit agencies do hiring frenzies in the summer to cover all the vacation time the parents in their work force like to get, and so school bus drivers looking for other driving jobs pretty much always have a place to go.

        Anyway, appearances of a labor shortage may simply be the churn of employers having trouble filling newly-opened positions. But we have people experiencing homelessness, in large numbers, who would love to work if they could get stable housing and transportation. Some have housing, but are afraid to leave it, lest it get towed away.

        Perhaps the housing crisis, more so than immigration policy, has helped put employers in this bind. Having the transit system collapse also doesn’t help.

      10. Democracy requires that the voters be well-informed

        Yes, exactly. Case in point, the comments about immigration by Daniel here. I don’t mean to pick on him, because they are typical. It is worth noting that Daniel is well educated. If I remember right, he is a lawyer, which means he is part of a relatively small group (about 13%) with a graduate degree. And yet he demonstrates profound ignorance on a subject he feels comfortable writing about. I wouldn’t expect him to be an expert on the subject before commenting, but it would be nice if people would make a cursory attempt at understanding the subject. It has never been easier to do that. Just look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States. Here is a Cliff Notes version:

        Until recently, immigration was based on race (Naturalization Act, Page Act, Chinese Exclusionary Act). White people could come here without limits. Well, not all white people. In 1924 they restricted immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe, particularly Jewish, Italian, and Slavic people. Most of the Jews fleeing Nazi Germany were barred from becoming Americans.

        Mexican immigration is especially interesting. During the Great Depression, the Mexican Repatriation deported Mexican-Americans living in the United States. An estimated forty to sixty percent of those repatriated were citizens of the United States – overwhelmingly children. Then there was Operation Wetback (yes, that was what it was called) where the government used military-style tactics to remove Mexican immigrants—some of them American citizens—from the United States. Though millions of Mexicans had legally entered the country through joint immigration programs in the first half of the 20th century, Operation Wetback was designed to send them back to Mexico.

        It would be as if they sent me back (because my ancestors are Irish) even though I’m an American citizen. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. That is because a lot of Mexican-Americans never moved. With the U.S. victory in the Mexican–American War, the Gadsden Purchase, and the annexation of the Republic of Texas, much of the present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming, were ceded to the United States. Under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, people who used to live in those areas were automatically U. S. citizens. They didn’t immigrate, they had been living there for years.

        So consider that for a second. You are living in say, Tuscan, as a Mexican. Then the U. S. buys up the land. Fair enough, now you are a U. S. citizen. Time goes by, your children have been here their whole life. So have their children. Now, the U. S. government decides to round them up, and send them “back” to Mexico (to someplace they have never been).

        And yet David thinks “Republicans are starting to do well with legal Hispanic workers, because they are most harmed by illegal immigration.” It is ridiculous. Anti-immigration policies (aimed at both legal and illegal immigration) have caused the Republicans to lose California for at least a generation (if not more). California — the land of Reagan and Nixon — is solidly Democratic, with 42 Democratic representatives (to 11 for the Republicans) both Senate seats, and the governorship. Even Orange County leans Democratic. Orange County! This is all about the immigration issue, which is all about racist attacks, as it always has been.

        If you want to reduce illegal immigration, then increase legal immigration (legal immigration peaked in 1991 and hasn’t come close since). But Republicans, lead by Trump, oppose that. In fact, they want the opposite. Trump supported the RAISE act, that would cut legal immigration in half. He signed an executive order reducing the issuance of green cards to immigrants. With few exceptions, the order concerns thousands of immigrant parents, adult children and siblings of citizens and current green card holders seeking to immigrate to the United States. In other words, legal immigrants.

        It isn’t about illegal immigrants, it is about legal immigrants. You can’t get a job driving for Pierce Transit as an illegal immigrant — get real. You need a green card, at a minimum. Through executive action, Trump reduced the number of green cards issued and the number of people who could become full citizens. This has hurt the U. S. economy (as economists expected).

      11. Ross, I am glad you read Wiki on immigration, but you kind of missed my point: what I said is immigration will likely be the number one issue in the 2022 elections. In your very long post you neglected to distinguish legal from illegal immigration.

        I respect your opinion, but like many opinions you have outside transit you are in the minority, which you ascribe to a superior intellect. Who knows, that may be true, but in politics it means at most you are Joan of Arc. You actually thought Thomas-Kennedy was the better candidate because she would be a better civil attorney. I think you kind of missed the forest from the trees on that one.

        Your view that CA has gone D due to immigration is too simplistic. For example TX is one of the most conservative states and has a huge Hispanic population. It also fails to account for the huge areas of CA that are conservative. One of the things I found amazing about Youngkin’s victory is he swept 98% of the land area of VA.

        Hispanics are not a solid blue constituency, and trends show that as the Democratic Party lurches left the Hispanic population (those who can vote) are moving toward the republicans. Your analysis of Hispanic Americans fails to understand the common factor among them: Catholicism, a common error for progressives, despite being so sensitive to identity.

        Because illegal immigration does not affect you, you see it academically. It is like the talking point CRT is not being taught in K-12 schools was such a terrible campaign theme for D’s and McAuliff, and one day I will repost an article I wrote on CRT in the 1970’s and CRT today that is being taught in K-12 education.

        I still think illegal immigration will be the key issue in the 2022 midterms for swing states, although the R’s have huge momentum anyway.

      12. One theory of mine for the labor shortage is that many people in the older generation, who were thinking about retiring sometime in the few years decided to accelerate their retirement plans when COVID hit because they didn’t want to deal with the risks of getting the disease as a 60-70-year-old or the hassles of wearing a mask all day to reduce that risk. So you end up with maybe 5-years worth of retirements all compressed into a single year.

        This starts a chain reaction as jobs open up, people quit other (lesser-paying) jobs to fill them, which leaves openings somewhere else, which get filled by people leaving still other jobs, etc. Eventually, the labor market will sort itself out, but that, of course, takes time.

        Normally, one quick method for addressing labor shortages is bringing in workers from other countries. But, our dysfunctional immigration system is not capable of doing that without action from Congress which is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

        It is quite possible that illegal immigration becomes a significant election issue. Fox News will certainly do everything in their power to make it so. Immigration generally advantages the Republicans because the Republicans are largely unified in what they want (prevent all immigration, both legal and illegal), while Democrats have divisions. Often, strict enforcement of immigration laws and treating people humanely are contradictory, so whether a president decides to do something or not do something, either way, it ends up looking bad. Republicans are largely able to avoid these contradictions because their base has decided that it is ok to be cruel, and everybody expects it. Democrats, on the other hand, are held to higher standards, where they’re expected to be both humane and strictly enforce the law at the same time, and, without help from Congress, doing both at the same time is essentially impossible. The fact that there’s a vocal minority on the far left calling to abolish ICE is also not doing them any favors, even though there’s nothing the party establishment can really do to stop them.

      13. My friend who has partly succumbed to right-wing propaganda was sending me pictures of the Haitian refugees with the caption “future Democratic voters”, saying they’ll all vote illegally and will vote for Democrats as ordered to, or in thankfulness for weakening the border. But he’s been saying that for years.

      1. The best data I can find is that Pierce County has a significantly lower partial vaccination rate (63%) than King County (77%). So, PT should presumably be getting hit by the temporary nuisances of the I-have-to-get-vaccinated-now wave somewhat more than Metro is. Whether any drivers get let go depends on how hard they scrutinize the conscientious objection statements, but most of the not-yet-vaccinated will choose to finally get vaccinated. That’s worth the temporary nuisance.

        I sense that no employers wants to scrutinize these statements more than state or federal rules require. That’s fine. The scrutiny rules can always be hardened later if we run out of tools in the toolbox to end the pandemic, and we still haven’t done the larger things that need to be done, like a Marshall Plan to provide billions of doses to Africa.

        I don’t think transit providers have to reassign vax refusers to non-public-facing duties. If they were health care employees or direct state/federal employees, they would have had to do that, I think. I still have to catch up on how the new OSHA rules impacts federal contractors, which covers all public transit agencies.

        Still, we’re talking about roughly 3% of a typical work force simply refusing, and this shortage is much larger than that.

    2. Pierce Transit already had an aging workforce before 2020. Covid accelerated retirements. Where are the new hires? Remember, during covid, it was legal to not pay rent. That’s gone. People are going to have to start paying the evil capitalist landlord again. And they can no longer rely on stimulus payments for income. A lot of people signed up for Robinhood during covid to hoping to become Ray Dalio by trading s#$%coins and meme stocks. That experiment failed, and left them broke and facing a harsh reality: They are going to have to get a real job soon. And, remember, driving jobs don’t take anyone who smokes pot. That’s 20% of the US population. So that limits the applicant pool. But, to quote Mr. Bookman, the library cop in Seinfeld, party time is over. They’ll gradually come crawling back to the workforce over the next 12 months.

      1. The marijuana test is ridiculous. It is one thing if you are high at work, but it is another if you smoked some weed during the weekend.

      2. I don’t think the marijuana test has anything to do with the driver shortage.

        That said, marijuana stays in your system for a long time, roughly a month or more. If you smoke marijuana off-duty, you risk getting tested randomly (a federal requirement, not something PT made up) and a positive result. Then, you’ll be on leave (unpaid I think) until you can get a negative test, if that agency has a second-chance policy, or fired. Smoking pot and driving professionally don’t mix, not necessarily because of the science (of which I am no expert), but because the FTA and DEA say so.

        If you have smoked marijuana in the past month, don’t bother applying to drive at a transit agency until it has been a couple months since smoking it. And then, be prepared to not smoke it ever again, until you are no longer working for a transit agency.

      3. I don’t think the marijuana test has anything to do with the driver shortage.

        Of course it does. As Sam wrote, roughly 20% of the population smoked weed in the last month. Given the choice, those people would likely take a pay cut (to say, work at Starbucks) over giving up their recreational activity, especially if working at Starbucks is significantly easier (which it is).

        Of course it isn’t the biggest factor, but it all adds up.

    3. I’m no macroeconomist, so I’m just addressing the transit situation.

      One of the causes of slow hirings at some agencies has been having to social-distance their classrooms, so, the classes in which they could train 30 drivers becomes maybe 10 drivers, even if there are more qualified applicants. Trainers can’t be cloned, so even if more classroom space is easy to find, more trainers for the classes has a long lead preparation time. There are certification processes for doing such training.

      1. Al S, I never said all Latino’s are leaving the Democratic Party. What a silly straw man, considering all Latino “groups” were never in the Democratic Party.

        It is also silly to suggest the Spanish American war or past “exploitation” of Latino immigrants was a Republican/Democrat issue. Correct me if I am wrong, but most exploitation of Latino immigrants occurred in the bluest state, CA.

        Latino’s can make up there own mind. Whether they watch Fox or CNN I can’t say, but based on ratings I would say 3 to 1 watch Fox.

        What I said is the legal Latino groups are more evenly divided between D’s and R’s, and like most of the country the D’s lurch to the left is causing middle of the road voters of all stripes to move to the R party, and progressives like you make a mistake to think Latino’s are a captured Democratic group.

    4. Daniel, I’m a bit surprised that you imply that all Latino groups are now leaving the Democratic Party. Cuban refugees in Florida dating from Castro have always been mostly Republican. Trump really screwed over Puerto Rico (US territory so those residents are already US citizens) after Hurricane Maria, and Republicans continue to block statehood for those US citizens for the last 120 years. If Republicans believed it would help them they would be pushing for statehood.

      California was part of Spain much longer than the US and many Latinos in California (and here in Washington for that matter) have relatives in Mexico. Central American immigrants south of Mexico witnessed the horrors of US corporate meddling in their countries.

      It’s a Republican tactic these days to play up to social conservatism in the Latino communities and avoid the generations of economic conservatism and exploitation of the past. Congratulations for following along with them. The curious thing is that the Spanish TV market is big and those not watching those stations aren’t really paying attention to the power of TV on Spanish language speakers. They don’t watch Fox News in English like conservative Americans do.

  7. Metro is also having problem in having enough drivers to fill out their full schedule as they have had to cancel as many as 75 trips or more on many routes on some days. Most are during the morning and afternoon rush hour but some have also been during the day. They have not done the reduction of service that Pierce Transit is planning to do.

  8. I’m surprised that ST Express 586 got spared. Maybe it has a higher load factor than typical peak-direction 577s and 590s, but there are readily-available alternatives that involve fewer platform hours, namely 577 + 1 Line and 590 + 1 Line.

    And why did the web designers forget to add that snazzy lime-green line that the other ST Express routes serving U-District, Roosevelt, Northgate, and SeaTac Airport Station got? I would suggest that ST Express routes serving downtown also deserve the lime-green-line treatment, especially if ST decides to shut down route 586, which I think is overdue considering the current situation.

  9. I checked out Pierce Transit’s jobs page. I was pleasantly surprised how good the video was. It’s a job I would recommend to someone. No college education required. Good wage and benefits when at top scale. Opportunity for overtime. Probably opportunities for promotion within the transit agency, or even at other county departments other than transit.


  10. And here i just started to get my nerve up to start taking the 1, and snagged my employee Orca yesterday.

    Seeing this, I was thinking ” they will at least maintain service on their most productive route, right?” Gah.

    Biking in the rain is good for me. Biking in the rain is good for me…

  11. It sounds like this is a pretty shit job. Want to get more drivers? Make it less shitty. Higher pay. Lower barriers to entry. Guaranteed, consistent hours. Good benefits. You will get the drivers.

    Just dont loosen vax requirements. Those arent the drivers you want anyway.

    1. Also, perhaps if the PSRC had distributed money more equitably, rather than using the tired addage “why build a bridge there. Noone ever crosses that river,” perhaps PT could have used that money to provide a more competitve package for drivers.

      Instead of driving PT to the point where its near unusable if you value your time.

  12. Big picture wish it is surprising that anyone is surprised by this situation. The job description is of the type that it would objectively attract very very few applicants. Fedex and Amazon drivers would not routinely be asked to face repeated dangerous situations for less pay. Until there are severe well enforced penalties on violence in public transit the situation has no chance of improvement.

  13. Looks like it’s time to raise bus driver wages. Of course, that also means less service, especially in Pierce County, which I think had already reached the limit of what they want to pay for.

    1. Would Pierce Co. residents vote in favor of a transit levy that increased driver compensation but did not materially improve service?

      IMO ST will need an operations levy because its ridership and farebox revenue estimates were “optimistic”, (and ST may need to increase driver pay), and Metro will need a transit levy to provide feeder bus service coverage and frequency to make up for the transfers to Link. So would King Co. voters pass a transit levy, especially if it doesn’t really increase service?

      Hard to say since transit was not an issue in the recent elections. I doubt East King Co. and South King Co. would pass a transit operation levy — or levies — until light rail reaches them, and transit needs are better known post pandemic.

      1. ST doesn’t pay drivers. All of the bus service is contracted through the county bus systems. That said, they will most certainly be paying more when the contract comes around not just because of driver pay but increased fuel prices; in fact increased prices across the board.

      2. Metro has a long-range plan called Metro Connects and the county is planning a countywide levy someday to pay for it. It was going to happen in 2020 but covid sucked all the oxygen out of the room and then the county wanted the Harborview expansion levy alone on the ballot, so the Metro levy was postponed to some vague time, maybe 2022 or 2024. The plan was online from 2016-2020 so many of you have seen it. It’s not online now so I don’t know where Metro is with that, but it’s still mentioning it in its reports so the concept is still there. The post-ST2 and post-ST3 networks are oriented more around Link stations, with a whole alphabet of RapidRide lines, more frequent routes, more all-day expresses, and more coverage. The Northgate and East Link restructures are based on it, although the service hours got reduced with the recession, covid travel patterns, and the fact the countywide levy hasn’t happened yet. So they’re less frequency than Metro would have wanted, but they show a gradual reorientation of the network toward Link. That’s the feeders Daniel is expecting, and what other cities with a metro rail trunk do.

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