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Metro facing bus driver shortage

Metro's board of directors voted against a proposal Thursday that would allow the transit agency to increase the pool of candidates for bus driver jobs.

The $750,000 contract would have allowed Metro to outsource some of the screening for the positions to increase its recruitment efforts. The human resources department is unable to process "the volume of candidates" needed to create a suitable hiring pool. It takes a class of 1,000 candidates to get 30 suitable trainees, said Gary Baldwin, Metro's director of human resources.

It's a "huge problem," he said. The issue started with a hiring freeze in 2008 and 2009, officials said, and attrition rates due to retirements, resignations and medical disqualifications have "steadily increased" for both bus driver and rail operator jobs. Train operators are normally drawn from the ranks of bus drivers.

"If we don't take care of that bubble, we will not have bus drivers to drive the buses," said Interim General Manager Richard Sarles.

Metro also tightened its employment requirements in the summer of 2009, limiting the eligibility of people with felony and misdemeanor convictions for jobs based on the the number of infractions and when the crime was committed.

A staff proposal said the contract would have been funded through overtime savings, but board members balked.

"Absent some better explanation on why we are spending nearly a million dollars for this purpose, I can't support this," board member Jim Graham said.

By Michael Bolden  | October 28, 2010; 4:14 PM ET
Categories:  Metro, Metrobus  
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Comments

1,000 applicants yield only 30 candidates?

That's insane. Makes you wonder who is driving those buses...

Posted by: yell53 | October 28, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Makes one wonder who runs the hiring process at metro. The amount of fraud, waste and abuse in their system(s) and the general incompetence of management has me thinking they need a Michelle Rhee type to sweep out the trash.

Posted by: snake_taylor | October 28, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

If Metro can't handle the hiring of bus drivers, why just outsource the personnel screening? It would make more sense for Metro to try contracting bus operations.

Metro has proven to be dismally incompetent at running safe and efficient bus operations. Unsafe drivers, hit-and-run accidents, even bus thefts from Metro depots - the bad news just keeps coming.

There are plenty of private bus operators who run bus operations safely and professionally. Why not hire them to run a few Metro routes?

That would also allow Metro management to concentrate more on fixing the numerous safety and service problems with the rail system.

But of course, that would require some courage from the Metro Board of Directors. They would have to be willing to stand up to criticism from transit unions. And sadly, the gutless Metro Board has shown no interest in serious reform, even though bus and rail service continue to deteriorate.

Posted by: jrmil | October 28, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Penny wise and pound foolish.

Overtime costs are costing Metro tens of millions - both now and in increased retirement payments.

Lots of people in this country would be willing to take these $68,000 a year jobs. All you have to do is advertise OUTSIDE THE DISTRICT.

Posted by: b1978367 | October 28, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

where did you get tht salary from they don't make that much you are not smart.

Posted by: ahwig20 | October 28, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

I would not want to work drive a bus for METRO, with all the accidents that THE DRIVERS have, MOST ARE NOT THE FAULT OF THE BUS DRIVER, BUT THEY ARE FIRED FOR ACCIDENTS/ISSUES THAT THEY HAVE NO CONTROL OVER just to satisfy the public. Then the public is ready to sue METRO for an accident they caused because the DRIVER OF THE BUS COULD NOT STOP LIKE THEY STOP A CAR. And now, METRO cannot find anyone who wants to or who is eligible to work for them, I WONDER WHY.

Posted by: smrrd | October 29, 2010 8:00 AM | Report abuse

yell53 wrote: 1,000 applicants yield only 30 candidates? That's insane. Makes you wonder who is driving those buses...

============

I'm not 100% sure what you're implying, but that's a rate of 3%, which sounds pretty typical of a job that involves a huge amount of public liability. Public-safety jobs (e.g., police, ambulance, etc.) have a rate of about 1%. And of course, in an economy like this, you're going to get tons of people applying for most any job -- especially those that pay well and *appear* easy.

As for the Metro-bashing by "jrmil" above, I ride the bus and subway to and from work every day and have never encountered a problem. The drivers are great, safe, and on time. It's not fair to take sensational stories from the news (a tiny percentage out of the countless Metro trips every year) and call the operation "dismally incompetent." Arguments are better made based on fact instead of exaggeration.

Posted by: Andrew53 | October 29, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

ahwig20, punctuation can and should be used within and at the end of sentences, not merely at the end of paragraphs.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | October 29, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Either they have to drop the mandatory drug test or give incentive to folks living outside of dc or related to current employees. (hint try advertising in hispanic, asian and other communities.)

Posted by: Jim110 | October 29, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

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