CATS: Bus driver absences continue; customers should expect delays

·4 min read

Staffing shortages are once again causing delays for commuters on the Charlotte Area Transit System.

On Monday morning, CATS announced 88 bus drivers would be absent causing intermittent delays.

CATS told customers to check its mobile app for real-time route updates because some routes might be delayed or canceled.

“Thanks for your patience as we work to address the industry-wide labor shortage,” the tweet read.

CAST said there were 72 bus drivers absent on Saturday and 92 on Friday, so passengers should expect delays because of it.

In a tweet Thursday, CATS said 97 drivers were absent.

ALSO READ: New video shows moments before CATS bus shot into in south Charlotte

On Wednesday, CATS said 107 drivers were absent from work, leaving some passengers waiting longer for their rides. In a tweet Wednesday, CATS warned riders of delays due to staffing shortages.

Jarred Postell has to be on time to work and said Wednesday that one of the buses he relies on to get there was about 20 minutes late.

“I catch the bus the same time every day on my way to work,” he said. “I think it got there at like 12:45. Luckily, I still got here on time, but it does throw it off, because that’s not the first time.”

Postell said he has noticed an increase in bus delays over the past few weeks.

“I think it’s ridiculous, you know. I mean, they’re getting paid to do their job, do what they’re supposed to do,” rider Tasha Craddock said.

Krissy Oeschslin takes the number 9 bus every time she goes to work, and she says her usual 30 minute wait has been increasing. Oeschslin said she wishes the CATS app would be updated to include canceled buses.

“It’s not right for anyone to have to wait two hours,” Oechslin said.

Channel 9′s Tina Terry asked several CATS bus drivers if Wednesday’s absences were intentional and part of a planned protest. They said they knew nothing about a planned protest.

People who rely on those drivers are hoping the problem doesn’t persist.

“It concerns me .... because I ride the bus every day. Who’s to say this won’t transpire tomorrow as well,” Craddock said.

ALSO READ: City audit raises concerns over potential missing CATS funds

Some drivers told Channel 9 that the absences were due to issues with management, and driver shortages were due to discipline procedures, retirements and high resignation rates.

Colotta Torres said she takes the bus every day and whatever the reason, it’s a headache.

“There is no communication, customer service. I think they close too early on the weekends. I think they should stay open till 6 p.m. because sometimes you are left stranded at transit.”

CATS proposes solutions to long wait times

CATS CEO John Lewis told Channel 9 that 292 operators are needed Monday through Friday to run normally. With 107 drivers calling out Wednesday, the delays were significant.

CATS also has 74 open bus operator positions they are desperately trying to fill.

“I’ve never been in a position where it has been difficult to hire bus operators,” Lewis said.

Lewis said CATS is working to increase salaries and benefits for bus drivers and create more flexible schedules, including 4-day work weeks in order to fill the positions.

ALSO READ: FTA provides CATS with funds to launch transit on demand service

Lewis also said that bus drivers are currently allowed 40 unexcused absences per year, 10 per quarter, and he wants to cut that down.

“Unfortunately, operators are taking advantage of it, and we’re going to close that loophole,” Lewis said.

Lewis also said another short-term solution would be to move bus routes to a Saturday Schedule with express routes. He says that would make routes more reliable and give CATS time to hire more drivers.

A vote on that could come in July.

(WATCH BELOW: FTA provides CATS with funds to launch transit on demand service)