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Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC Transit has a driver shortage. Here's what it means for your bus commute.

The transit service provider says it's working to recruit new operators

By Martin Bauman
June 15, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC Transit has a driver shortage. Here's what it means for your bus commute.

The transit service provider says it's working to recruit new operators

By Martin Bauman
Jun 15, 2022
The #2 BC Transit bus, bound for Oak Bay. Photo: abdallahh / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
The #2 BC Transit bus, bound for Oak Bay. Photo: abdallahh / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

BC Transit has a driver shortage. Here's what it means for your bus commute.

The transit service provider says it's working to recruit new operators

By Martin Bauman
June 15, 2022
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BC Transit has a driver shortage. Here's what it means for your bus commute.
The #2 BC Transit bus, bound for Oak Bay. Photo: abdallahh / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Victoria Regional Transit System says ongoing hiring challenges are making it hard to keep service up across its bus routes.

At Tuesday’s Victoria Regional Transit Commission (VRTC) meeting, the transit provider recommended to the commission that they keep reduced service levels across the board, rather than ramping them up in the fall. The transit service had cut back seven percent of its scheduled routes in January, transit planner Tristan Ford wrote in a report to the commission—an attempt to mitigate a rise in driver sick days and ongoing hiring difficulties. 

It was intended as a temporary measure, with the expectation that services would return to regular scheduling in September; however, Ford wrote that forecasted fall staffing is still “much lower” than initially predicted.

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“Being at an ideal state, we would have about 550 operators,” Kevin Schubert, general manager of Victoria operations, told the VRTC on Tuesday. Instead, he said, they’re at “about 520.” A minimum threshold to operate with full service would take 536 drivers.

That has led to multiple days with dozens of cancelled trips this spring. On May 5, more than 50 trips were cut across four routes—affecting transit to the Victoria General Hospital, University of Victoria, and Tillicum Centre. On January 22, BC Transit cut a combined 47 trips serving Langford, the university, and Esquimalt.

BC Transit has been working to hire new drivers, Schubert told the commission.

“We've just lived through a couple years where the volatility of illness is tough,” he said.

Routes affected

The Victoria transit system cost $141 million in 2018-19 (the last year for which information is shared on BC Transit’s website) and saw 27 million total passenger trips across Greater Victoria. Typically, ridership increases in fall with the arrival of post-secondary students.

Ford told the VRTC the plan for fall would be to reintroduce seasonal services to and from campus, but maintain reduced service levels along “targeted… trips and routes” in order to minimize disruption.

But that wouldn’t mean the same routes are affected every time. Instead, BC Transit spokesperson Jamie Weiss told us, the transit service aims to “maintain a balanced schedule”—just with fewer trips across the board.

Ongoing labour shortage, cost of living a factor

BC Transit is far from the only industry beset with staffing woes, as our Pay Check series illuminated. But a rising cost of living—and a shortage of housing—has made the situation particularly challenging in the South Island. 

“Even in my own municipality, we can't hire staff because they can't find a place to live,” Sooke mayor and VRTC board member Maja Tait told the commission.

“[Are] there other things that we can look to be creative about in terms of housing [for transit workers]? … Can we get first right on suites as they come up?” she asked the board.

Commission chair Susan Brice cautioned that while she agrees there’s a need for workforce housing, figuring out which industries are most deserving could lead to a “domino effect”:

“Who is the most important worker in that food chain? … We get to a point where we start demarcating which roles are more critical to the whole matrix.”

Hiring efforts underway

Relief is coming to Victoria’s transit system, Schubert told the commission. BC Transit graduated nine new operators in May. Another 18 drivers are in active training. 

Since the start of 2022, he added, the transit service has received “well over" 350 applications. Schubert credits a $1,500 Career Transition Allowance given to all new hires as helping to boost recruitment.

For bus riders looking to avoid getting caught in delays, Weiss recommends checking NextRide for the most up-to-date route information.

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Martin Bauman
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