Metro is short on drivers as well as buses. So how many are needed?

Metro continues canceling some trips and temporarily suspending some routes. Last week, we reported the number of buses that needed to have a steering defect fixed was higher than first disclosed – more than 200, about 10 percent of the fleet; Metro said on Thursday that 61 were still awaiting repairs. But what about the other half of the equation – the driver shortage?

Metro spokesperson Jeff Switzer explained, “Metro has an ongoing recruitment campaign for part-time operators, which is the primary way we increase our transit operator ranks. From there, we promote to full-time, which allows operators to deliver more service each day.” Currently, they have 2,513 operators (drivers) – 1,971 full-time, 542 part-time. How many do they need? According to Switzer, “Metro estimates it needs 99 full-time equivalent transit operators, which can be a varying combination of part-time and full-time operators. This could be in the neighborhood of 102 part-time operators and 38 full-time operators.” Last year, Metro “trained and hired 167 part-time transit operators and promoted 152 full-time transit operators.” They have training classes for both categories, with four part-time classes and three full-time classes scheduled this month and next.” Need a job? Switzer has a pitch for you: “We encourage people to consider joining our world-class organization, either as a transit operator, vehicle maintenance staff or other open Metro positions posted on King County’s jobs page.” Here’s the link for transit openings; part-time driver is listed at a range of $26.57 – $37.96 hourly.

21 Replies to "Metro is short on drivers as well as buses. So how many are needed?"

  • Flo B January 18, 2023 (4:51 pm)

    Family member drives for Metro. Problem recruiting is twofold. 1) People see the “interesting riders” and knowing how volatile/scary they really are do NOT want to deal with them saying “you can’t pay me enough to have to deal with these people” The other issue which has also affected ferry recruitment is that there are a lot of people who feel they’re too special to start at the bottom and put in their time to work up the ladder. They’re genuinely miffed that they can’t dictate they pay and work schedule on day one. 

    • bill January 18, 2023 (8:17 pm)

      Maybe the bottom-tier jobs need to be rethought and redesigned. The job market is sending a message: The pay isn’t adequate for what management expects, or how management behaves. That your family member debased themselves for scraps in the golden past is no reason for people to put up with that now.

      • Resident January 18, 2023 (11:30 pm)

        I am not saying you are wrong but I am also saying you are not correct. Somebody needs to start at the bottom. If you can’t stomach that then there is another issue.

        • The King January 19, 2023 (3:47 am)

          Exactly. Companies out of necessity will search automation options and invest in the companies able to fit their needs. 

        • WS Res January 19, 2023 (8:56 am)

          Maybe it’s not about what someone can “stomach.” People are trying to hold part-time jobs while doing things like… holding other full-time or part-time jobs… going to school… caring for kids and family members….  Unpredictable, last-minute scheduling that simultaneously penalizes workers for saying “I can’t take that shift because [I have class/I don’t have any child care/my other job has already scheduled me/etc.” is a major reason people have quit jobs or don’t take them to begin with.

        • WestSeattleBadTakes January 19, 2023 (11:14 am)

          The bottom shouldn’t entail being treated poorly. If you can’t stomach that then there is another issue.

    • Derek January 19, 2023 (12:33 pm)

      Pay the drivers more!!!!!

  • NW January 18, 2023 (5:24 pm)

    I drive for a living myself though what I like about my job is I get physical activity with the work I do. If I decided to drive for KC metro instead and make more than what I am paid I would not get the physical activity I do and  would be sitting most of the day. I appreciate metro drivers so much for what they do because I depend on transit daily. Thank you so much drivers for your service. If you ever are on the bus and want to talk to a driver but are too embarrassed go up and talk with them if they are receptive. I share this because I do occasionally.

  • Brian January 18, 2023 (5:59 pm)

    Typically when folks talk about a “death spiral” with public transit it’s in terms of the cyclical nature of “the service is bad so no one uses it; no one uses the service so it doesn’t get funded” but the third facet that I don’t think most folks saw coming was “what if the work force is too depleted from overwork and sickness to even staff what we have funded?”

    • admyrl byrd January 18, 2023 (7:06 pm)

      “Nobody rides the bus any more – they’re too crowded”.Yogi Berra if he lived in Seattle

  • KD January 18, 2023 (6:49 pm)

    NW; If you’d like to give it a try (you are paid for the weeks of training, near Boeing Field) and still do your current job, a lot of Part Time Operators have another side gig, until they decide whether to go Full Time or not, but you’d be moving up to FT a LOT faster than the usual wait with the shortage and the upcoming retirements. My real reason for addressing you is that each work site has a pretty buffed out work out room with multiple elliptical, bikes, weights, etc. They are pretty fancy workout rooms and as most government jobs, they have an employee health program for assistance in not just physical activity, but stop-smoking programs, health and financial advice, etc. for free thru King County. Even through the health benefits program I was able to go to an offsite commercial gym near home at a lower rate. Driving is the easiest and fun part of the job, helping most of the general population is too. It’s the loose laws and criminals and dumazz goofballs that are the trying part of job. Super excellent pay and benefits, a strong Union too. Give it a try 🚌💨

  • Seattlite January 18, 2023 (7:56 pm)

    The no consequences for bad behavior of riders must be quite challenging for bus drivers.  Imagine the types of abuse bus drivers take from the low-lives who ride.  If METRO could manage its business better, more people would ride and more people would apply at METRO.

  • Bus rider January 18, 2023 (8:54 pm)

    With all the trip cancellations on Route 56/57, why does Metro run 56 and 57 from downtown at the same time — 4:45?

  • Lauren January 18, 2023 (9:00 pm)

    I think people sometimes forget: over 1 million people died from Covid in the past few years. Beyond the obvious tragedy in that, there are ripple effects like this. 

    • Resident January 18, 2023 (11:33 pm)

      Can you please tie this back into the story directly?

      • Brian January 19, 2023 (1:43 am)

        I mean, they just did. There’s a lack of applicants because a lot of people died or are permanently disabled. And it’s going to keep happening. 

  • Sparky January 18, 2023 (9:49 pm)

    The way Metro has handled the schedule chaos has been abysmal.  The lack of transparency about what has been going on even when it became obvious there was more to the story than the steering issue – which was probably overblown to begin with.  Then there is the absolutely poor communications about cancellations.  It is getting a bit better,  but I was frequently getting text alerts for cancelled runs an hour or two after the bus didn’t show up – or no text alert at all.  You want to drive SOV use up?  Make it so bus riders don’t know whether their bus will show up to get them to work or school on time. 

  • KT January 19, 2023 (4:42 am)

    There are literally thousands of immigrants waiting at the southern boarder who would be thrilled to have these metro, ferry and other jobs (health-care, laborers, service workers)….

  • D Martin January 19, 2023 (5:20 am)

    I have witnessed some very scary and violent  things on Metro. Unless I was enclosed in bullet proof glass with a door that locks from the inside, I would never drive for them. 

  • Claudia Williams January 19, 2023 (6:23 am)

    Starting new employees only with part-time jobs is part of the problem. People need full-time jobs and yes, people need to make enough money to pay for basic living costs. Why work if your job doesn’t pay for that?? 

    • Jon Wright January 19, 2023 (7:34 pm)

      These scheduling issues aren’t Metro’s choice, they are dictated by the collective bargaining agreement with the drivers. Seniority is sacred to represented work groups so new people starting with miserable, part-time schedules is de rigueur in union shops. The challenge is for Metro and the Amalgamated Transit Union to work together to craft an agreement that respects seniority while at the same time addressing contemporary hiring challenges.

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