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Saturday, October 23, 2021
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UB Transportation has a bus driver shortage

University continues full service hours but with 25% fewer bus trips despite recent hires

Students board the Stampede during the fall 2020 semester. Parking and Transportation Services says an operator shortage is to blame for reduced operations.
Students board the Stampede during the fall 2020 semester. Parking and Transportation Services says an operator shortage is to blame for reduced operations.

The Stampede bus fleet is currently operating with 20% fewer drivers than normal due to a national bus driver shortage, according to a UBNow article

The Stampede has maintained its normal operating hours, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., but is missing about 25% of the trips it would normally run despite recent hires, according to Chris Austin, the director of Parking and Transportation Services. Shifts on the weekends and nights have been particularly difficult to staff. 

The shortage has meant crowded buses and longer wait times for the over 12,000 students who take the Stampede daily. 

First Transit, the national transportation company that runs the Stampede, has tried to recruit drivers by planning a job fair and increasing regional advertising. They are also considering signing bonuses for new drivers. 

“CDL [commercial driver’s license] drivers are a commodity right now,” Paul Abbott, executive director of transportation for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System said in an interview with ABC. “Everybody's paying top dollar.”

The median salary for a bus driver is $17 per hour nationwide and nearly $34,000 annually in Buffalo according to Salary.com. 

UB has an open-recruitment policy for qualified drivers and has reassigned campus shuttles to pick up some of the slack left by the Stampede. 

“The combination of these efforts, I hope, will lead to our on-boarding a sufficient number of operators to bridge the current gaps in service,” Austin said. “When that occurs, the bus overcrowding will diminish, efficiency and timeliness will improve, and we’ll better meet our goal of moving our students and community in the way they are accustomed to.”

The shortage of drivers has created problems for local school districts, according to The Buffalo News. Students at Niagara Falls High School have had to wait 45 to 60 minutes for a bus to take them home. Buffalo Public Schools are struggling to hire enough bus drivers, even after cutting over a fifth of their routes. BPS Superintendent Kriner Cash suggested that the national guard transport students to and from school at a board of education meeting last Wednesday. Massachusetts implemented a similar plan earlier this month according to NPR, assigning 250 national guardsmen to vans. 

The shortage has even garnered the attention of Gov. Kathy Hochul. Her office announced Sunday a “multi-agency plan” to solve the problem, including implementing signing bonuses, increasing benefits, directly reaching out to 550,000 CDL license holders and teaming up with SUNY and other organizations to expand CDL testing opportunities, according to the governor’s announcement. 

Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at grant.ashley@ubspectrum.com 

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GRANT ASHLEY

Grant Ashley is an assistant features editor for The Spectrum.  He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor.  He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon. 

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