The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday December 6th

Chapel Hill Transit scales down operations due to bus driver shortage

<p>A Chapel Hill Transit bus driver buckles in their seat belt on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021.</p>
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A Chapel Hill Transit bus driver buckles in their seat belt on Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021.

Chapel Hill Transit implemented several schedule changes Tuesday, reducing its services due to driver shortages. 

Most bus routes will now run until 8 p.m., except for the NS route, which will run less frequently until 10 p.m.

On weekdays, the NS bus will reach each stop roughly every eight to 10 minutes. On weekends, the J and NS buses will run every 80 minutes.

The run times of the FCX and NU buses will not change. The U and RU buses will still circle the UNC campus on weekdays every 10 to 15 minutes. These times vary on weekends and holiday breaks.

For those out late, Safe Ride buses will still run from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday. The route covers Franklin Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, N.C. 54 East and Smith Level Road.

Jeffrey Sullivan, the community outreach manager for Chapel Hill Transit, discussed issues with filling driving jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have been in an unfortunate position where we've had to drop some trips, which makes the experience unreliable for people,” Sullivan said. “We want to make a schedule that people can count on. Going forward, we are working really hard to hire operators so that we can bring our service back to our pre-pandemic levels.”

As of July, there were 10.9 million job openings nationwide that were not filled — a trend that has resulted in Chapel Hill Transit delivering fewer bus routes to residents.

Chapel Hill Transit needs approximately 110 drivers to run at full efficiency. Out of the maximum of 120 positions, only 85 are filled.

In the meantime, the Town is using new approaches to attract potential employees.

A pay raise was approved to increase the minimum wage to $16 an hour for all Chapel Hill Transit workers, which Sullivan said is an increase of over a dollar compared to the previous starting wage. 

He also said Chapel Hill Transit has been putting more funds into advertising and promotion to fill the remaining jobs.

Sarah Glas, a senior at UNC, said the bus driver shortage has presented challenges in her daily life. She now has to leave her apartment 20 minutes earlier than she normally would to catch the bus.

"Since there are only two buses that run by my apartment, it can be hard to make plans around them," Glas said.

Ashtyn Schrimper, a junior who transferred this fall, expressed her satisfaction with the bus system.

“I don’t take them often, but when I do, they pretty much get me where I need to go," Schrimper said. "It’s nice to have a free bus system when so many other places would charge you.”

Riders can use various free mobile apps to further plan their schedule, such as NextBus.

Sullivan said Chapel Hill Transit works closely with the NextBus team to ensure the information on the app is as accurate as possible.

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