PORTLAND, Ore. — TriMet has temporarily reduced its bus service as the agency experiences a severe staffing shortage. The changes took effect on Monday.
In an email sent last month, TriMet called it "the most significant operator shortfall in agency history."
The affected lines will have buses running less frequently on weekdays, according to a post on TriMet's website, and some lines may run fewer hours of the day with service starting later or ending earlier.
The cutbacks reduce overall bus service by about 9%, with an impact to 20 of the 84 bus lines. This brings service back to the level the agency adopted in April of 2020 in response to the pandemic and Oregon's stay-home orders.
LIFT paratransit riders may also experience longer ride times or differences in pickup or drop-off times. MAX and WES will not see any reductions to their current schedules, although those schedules remain at the lower levels that were put in place in April 2020, according to TriMet.
TriMet announced the planned cutbacks in early December, and said that it had 45 open bus driver positions and not enough applications to meet its expected hiring goals. The announcement came less than a week after TriMet started offering newly hired bus drivers a $2,500 hiring bonus incentive.
"We provide so much service, so we need to keep that pull of qualified applicants coming in," said Tia York, TriMet's public information officer. "We need dozens of people every month to fulfill all the positions that we have and that we anticipate with service expanding in the future."
The hiring bonus is in addition to increased starting pay of $21.36 per hour that was announced in October. Bus drivers are guaranteed to earn at least $68,000 per year after working full-time for three years, TriMet said.
Oregon's unemployment rate dropped to 4.4% in October, down from 4.7% in September. Despite that, many employers continue to have difficulty finding new workers to hire and more companies are coming up with new incentives to attract employees. The labor shortage spans multiple industries, from healthcare and education, to food and transportation services.