As students and faculty have returned to campus this fall, the demand for efficient and safe public transportation is high. It is not uncommon to see large groups of students waiting at bus stops hoping to catch a ride to class.
However, many of these students may be out of luck. Several Chapel Hill Transit bus routes are currently limited due to understaffing.
Earlier this summer, representatives from Chapel Hill Transit wrote they did not have enough bus drivers to operate at full service in the fall and that certain routes and stops would be limited. This has increased wait times for riders, especially in the first weeks of the return to on-campus instruction.
The delays and changes to the public transportation resources have made clear how important public transit is to the Carrboro and Chapel Hill communities.
The issues contributing to the lack of bus operators are multi-faceted. There was a 16-month hiring freeze on new operators for Chapel Hill Transit during the pandemic, during which several bus operators retired. Lastly, obtaining the specified driver’s license to drive the buses has been an obstacle for new operators to be hired.
With all these challenges, students and community members should exercise patience with Chapel Hill Transit. Their willingness to continue service amidst the pandemic and rising COVID-19 cases is commendable. They have consistently been on the front lines of the pandemic, yet have been committed to providing service to our communities.
According to representatives at Chapel Hill Transit, updates to services may occur in September. However, there are still over 30 positions that need to be filled for the bus routes to operate at full capacity. In the meantime, delays should be expected to continue and bus routes limited.
Chapel Hill Transit is not the only group facing bus operator shortages. The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District also is experiencing issues with understaffing. The process of returning to full, in-person work and school has put pressure on public transportation groups to meet demand.
This is not an ideal situation for anyone, but unfortunately, there are no ideal solutions.
While delays and crowded buses are annoying, they are the best that Chapel Hill Transit can offer as of now. Students should be respectful of the effort already going into providing current services.
Free public transit in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area is one of the highlights of this place. A normally accessible public transit system is something we are accustomed to now.
The Carolina Blue buses that drive around Chapel Hill and Carrboro add to the welcome feeling in the area.
Our communities are connected by the public transportation systems we have in place. Chapel Hill Transit enables us to get to class, visit friends and explore our community. Public transportation brings down the barriers to moving around the spaces we occupy.
While Chapel Hill Transit may be more delayed and services limited, they are still filling this role. And for that, we should be grateful.
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