MBTA Announces Summer 2023 Bus Service Schedules Update, Key Change to Bus Operator Hiring Policy
Posted on May 25, 2023
Today the MBTA announced it is revising Summer 2023 bus service schedules to better reflect the service which will be run, as well as making a key change to the bus operator hiring policy that will bolster recruitment efforts.
The summer schedules go into effect on July 2, 2023. The MBTA will hold a public meeting next month to update the public on these upcoming changes, and information about the bus schedule changes will be posted in June at mbta.com/servicechanges.
Previously, bus operators could only begin their tenure on a part-time basis at the MBTA. Through conversations with Local 589, the MBTA and the union reached an agreement allowing the T to begin advertising for full-time operators now. The MBTA will also connect with current part-time operators to offer them the opportunity to transition to full-time status, including operators currently in training.
“MBTA riders deserve better bus service and the agreement with the Boston Carmen’s Union moves the T in the right direction to offer more reliable service, as it will increase the number of operators,” said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Gina Fiandaca. “I thank and congratulate MBTA managers and officials with Local 589 on this agreement, which will make jobs at the MBTA more attractive.”
“The agreement we’ve reached with Local 589 that allows us to hire bus operators into full-time positions is a tremendous step in strengthening and revitalizing the MBTA’s workforce by making the role more attractive to prospective candidates,” said MBTA General Manager and CEO Phillip Eng. “Other recent hiring activities such as HR on the GO!, increased marketing campaigns, the $7,500 sign-on bonus, and free CDL classes for bus operators yielded a 112% increase in average monthly applications. Hiring more operators is imperative to providing the levels of bus service that our riders expect and deserve, and I thank Boston Carmen’s Union for their partnership.”
“This latest agreement to give bus drivers the option for full-time work is a very important step in the right direction toward improving working conditions and retention of frontline employees at the MBTA,” said Jim Evers, President of Carmen’s Local 589. “We applaud the new General Manager and the Healey administration for working with us to make this change that will contribute to their larger efforts to improve service availability and to retain a workforce. It’s a great way to get more workers in the door, and it does reflect a new approach from a new administration that is showing it values frontline workers and the interests of riders.”
Currently, MBTA bus service schedules do not always reflect bus arrival times due to operator shortages and not enough drivers to run routes daily. The new schedules will be in keeping with the MBTA Service Delivery Policy standards and will reduce the number of dropped trips. On a daily basis currently, one in 25-30 bus trips is dropped, resulting in uneven and unreliable service. Dropped trips are bus trips that do not operate, which occurs when there are not enough bus operators to run the stated bus schedules. Service disruptions, disabled vehicles, and other factors also contribute to dropped trips, but the availability of bus operators is the main driver.
With the goal of reducing the concentration of dropped trips on high ridership bus routes and scheduling impacts across a broad cross-section of routes in a planned way, the MBTA will publish schedules this summer that riders can rely on more by matching its bus schedules to the availability of bus operators.
Overall actual daily bus service will not change this summer, but reliability should improve and crowding on buses should lessen. Key Bus Routes, which serve the highest passenger volume corridors, will include about 2% more actual bus trips.
Published schedules have been revised to ensure that posted bus trips can be delivered. Under this revised schedule, the MBTA will provide, on average, 86% of pre-pandemic bus service. The previous schedule had service levels closer to 89%, but it was not attainable, resulting in many canceled trips. Scheduled service will be less frequent on 62 routes, mostly on weekdays especially during AM and PM peak hours.
Bus operator availability is a challenge currently experienced by transit agencies across the country. At the T, operator availability is driven by a number of factors, including hiring, separations and promotions, and absence rates. Since 2023, the MBTA is down approximately 200 bus operators versus pre-COVID operator availability. In the last 12 months, the MBTA has hired more than 200 operators, though not all have completed training and the MBTA continues to experience increased attrition.
Bus operator-focused recruitment and retention initiatives are already underway by the MBTA, including the recently implemented hiring of bus operators into full-time positions (previously, operators could only begin their tenure on a part time basis). Additional initiatives also include expanding the pool of potential hires, improving the utilization of the workforce, and improving job desirability through referral bonuses, training wage increases, sign-on bonuses (which were increased to $7,500), and relaunching the Safe Driver Award Program. New bus operator hiring initiatives are also underway to reshape the attractiveness of the role, including the launch of the MBTA’s HR on the GO! mobile hiring events and increasing publicity and communication around the benefits of working at the T.
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