In a time when the Mayor’s office, City Council, and the member-organizations of the Downtown Denver Partnership are working to increase ridership for public transport, RTD is announcing a driver shortage for both light rail and busses that is causing major delays for Denverites.
RTD’s assistant general manager of communications, Pauletta Tonilas, told The Denver Channel’s Russell Haythorn that the shortage is due to low unemployment and a competitive job market, as well as failure of applicants to pass drug tests and background checks. And with a deficit of 80 bus drivers and 50 train operators, the problem has reached critical status.
According to Tonilas, RTD has reached the point of daily disruptions, including canceled and delayed routes. Tonilas also admitted to receiving a plethora of emails from riders complaining of missed work due to the disruptions.
Haythorn interviewed several RTD customers who rely on the bus and light rail systems for their daily commute. The riders noted instances of doors being closed on riders attempting to board, as the strain of added stops to the already over-worked drivers causes them to spend less time at each. Others noted buses and light rails leaving ahead of schedule for the same reason. One rider drew attention to the problem of routes cancelled altogether with little to no notice, meaning a lack of opportunity to make arrangements for alternate transportation.
Traffic has long been a complaint of people who live and work in Denver, and the answer given from the powers that be has traditionally been to point to busses and light rail as the solution. But ridership is down, and the current crisis can only serve to deepen those numbers.
Tonilas told Haythorn that pay is not an issue, as drivers and operators make a competitive $20/hour. However, anonymous drivers interviewed by Haythorn complained of mandatory 6-day work weeks, graveyard shifts, and little to no support from their employers in handling rude or aggressive riders. It appears that the competitive work environment has led worthy applicants to jobs with better work-life balance and less headaches on the job.
Rest assured, if you – like many of us – rely on the rail or bus system to get to work, RTD is more than aware of your plight. They are actively working to find qualified drivers and operators to fill the void and get things back on track. It’s vital to our sanity to avoid traffic, to our family time to get to work and home as quickly as possible, and to our job security to arrive on time every single day.
It is also vital to our safety that drivers and operators are not overworked, working too long hours to make up for deficits, and are fresh and focused on their jobs. We know from the medical and airline industries that long hours and heavy workloads can lead to mistakes. And when those mistakes are made by the operator of a multi-ton vehicle at speeds of 45 mph or more, the results can be catastrophic.
Help RTD better address your concerns by contacting them with your issues and ideas. And allow us to help you or your loved one should the worst happen and an injury occur. Commutes are important, but safety should always be the number one concern.