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9 labor costs have inadvertently, negatively impacted the abil- Often operators are part of collective bargaining units. ity of agencies to recruit and retain qualified paratransit oper- Operators must have special licensing. ators. In the case of in-house paratransit operations, one Opportunities for advancement are scarce (8). strategy identified is the practice of implementing labor agree- ments with two wage scales--the usual fixed-route transit wage FTA ADA Paratransit Compliance Reviews and a lower wage for paratransit operators. Another strategy for labor cost reduction is for transit agencies to contract for Recent compliance reviews of ADA paratransit services service with providers that typically pay lower wages, a practice conducted by FTA have also documented issues with opera- that has unintentionally resulted in difficulties recruiting and tor availability and turnover. A review of final reports posted retaining quality operators in both transit agency-run systems on FTA's website identified recent service issues in the follow- and contracted systems (6). ing systems: State of the Art Paratransit also points out that paratransit operators driving larger vehicles must possess a commercial A review conducted of the Metropolitan Transit System driver's license, which places paratransit companies in com- (MTS) in San Diego, California, in February 2008 indi- petition with trucking and delivery companies that pay higher cated an 82% annual turnover rate among ADA paratran- wages. The report states that the difficulty in hiring, training, sit vehicle operators (9). The report states that "This high and retaining qualified paratransit vehicle operators will turnover rate results in a high percentage of relatively in- continue until the industry finds a way to compensate qual- experienced operators and may affect service efficiency and ity operators (6). service quality." TCRP Report 124: Guidebook for Measuring, Assessing, and A review of Pierce Transit in Lakewood, Washington, in Improving Performance of Demand-Responsive Transportation November 2007 indicated that the major private contractor, (2008) notes that wages and benefits for demand-responsive which provided about 74% of the service, was experiencing transportation (DRT) vehicle operators has become a key issue an 80% turnover rate among operators. Interestingly, Pierce in recent years, particularly in systems where service provision Transit, which provides about a quarter of the service in- is competitively procured (7). It indicates turnover rates of up house, reported almost no vehicle operator turnover (no to 50% and notes that shortages of operators and high turnover departures in 2007 and only a few operators retiring or leav- can impact DRT operations in several ways. Impacts cited ing each year). A review of the in-house operator roster include systems being unable to cover scheduled runs, high showed an average tenure of 14 years; the most inexperi- costs for ongoing recruitment and training, and the use of enced operator had 4 years of experience, and the senior more inexperienced operators. The report states that "It is operator had 26 years of experience (10). generally recognized that experienced DRT operators--who A review of the Central Ohio Transit Authority in Colum- are familiar with the service area, understand their riders' trip bus, Ohio, in February 2007 showed more moderate turn- patterns, are knowledgeable about the system's policies and over. Records of the private contractor which provides procedures, and competent with in-vehicle technology--can service in Columbus showed annual post-training turnover contribute to improved performance, particularly productiv- of about 25% (11). ity and service quality, such as on-time performance." A review of the City of Albuquerque Transit Department in TRB Special Report 275: The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Albuquerque, NM, conducted in September 2005 indicated Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation only about a 10% annual turnover of ADA paratransit vehi- and Transit Agencies lists the following factors as limitations cle operators. The ADA paratransit service in Albuquerque in the ability of transit agencies to recruit and retain new is provided in-house with city employees (12). operators: A review of the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads (Hampton Roads Transit) in Hampton, The equipment used on transit buses and paratransit vehi- VA, in October 2002 indicated an annual turnover of cles to accommodate people with disabilities, as well as the about 30%. The ADA paratransit service in Hampton was equipment used for various other operations like fare pro- provided by private contractors (13). cessing, automatic vehicle detecting, etc., are complicated A review of the City of Tucson Transit Services Division in and require extensive knowledge and training. Tucson, AZ, in March 2003 indicated an annual turnover Most agencies cannot offer flexible work schedules to new of about 44%. This included only 9% turnover among the operators. private contractor's 65 full-time vehicle operators but 93% New hires often have to work split-shifts. turnover among the 45 part-time operators (14). Operators are held to very high standards of efficiency and A review of the Birmingham Jefferson County Transit public safety. Authority in Birmingham, AL, in April 2002 noted that