AKRON, Ohio — Metro RTA is rolling out a new winter schedule that begins on Sunday and includes a reduction in the frequency of several of the transit agency’s most popular routes.
The changes are in direct response to labor shortages.
“We tried to do changes that would make minimal impact on people wherever possible,” said Director of Public Relations Molly Becker. “Unfortunately, because of staffing shortages, a shortage of operators, we’ve had to make changes.”
At the start of the pandemic, many of Metro's services were suspended as ridership dwindled. Metro RTA has lost 51 operators since January of 2020. While the transit agency has continued to hire and train employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are still short between 40-45 employees.
“As we’re putting more services back in after the pandemic, we don't have the drivers because we lost a lot of operators, drivers, operators, just though typical attrition,” Becker said. “Just like every industry across the country right now, we're really struggling to find people to apply and to get them in.”
The January 2022 changes will reduce the frequency on Route 1: West Market, Route 2: Arlington to 30 minutes on weekdays. Additionally, trips will be removed from the DASH service in downtown Akron and the 100 series routes, as well.
“We have talked to all of our sister transit agencies in the state as well as across the country, and we are all running into that same problem,” Becker said.
The changes could impact around 2,300 trips daily. The transit agency is still looking to hire for its open driver positions. Metro employees start out making $16.58 per hour. After five years, drivers earn a rate of $30.14 an hour.
“The first couple of years are harder. You have to work weird shifts. You have to work split shifts, holidays, weekends, night sometimes,” Becker said. “But once you get through those five years and you get more seniority, you're going to be making over $30/hr.”
Metro RTA says the change is temporary and the quicker they can fill positions, the sooner they can return full service.
Operators require 13 weeks of training to become a driver.
For details on your route, visit akronmetro.org or call 330-762-0341.
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