Chapel Hill Transit struggled to fill bus driver shortages over the COVID-19 pandemic. As the town adapts to post-pandemic life, the transit system is still recovering.
According to Chapel Hill Transit Director Brian Litchfield, they are at functioning at 86 percent of full operation. Bus driver vacancies have been cut in half, leaving about 20 positions to be filled.
With complications and safety concerns from the pandemic still present, Litchfield said finding bus drivers has proven to be a challenge – especially with long work hours late at night or early in the morning.
“There's a lot of opportunities to work remotely now,” he said. “Driving a bus is certainly something that requires not only skill to drive the bus but also customer service and it's something that folks, really, really have to want to do in order to do it.”
Chapel Hill Transit operator Tammy Price also said she felt the effects of being unable to work overtime due to the reduced bus routes.
“The income I was used to making dropped tremendously,” she said. “So I had to readjust everything.”
This is a result of efforts by both Litchfield and members of the Chapel Hill Public Transit Committee to increase benefits for bus drivers, he said. He said these include sign-on bonuses, recruitment bonuses and an hourly wage increase from $17 to $19 for full-time employees that was approved earlier this year.
He added they’ve also been able to fully restore some routes, such as the S route, that were unavailable due to vacancies.
Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils, who is also a member of the Chapel Hill Public Transit Committee, said the committee’s goal is to focus its efforts toward being more appealing to potential drivers.