TriMet raises new operator starting pay to $25.24 per hour, increases hiring bonus to $7,500


Increases aim to address most severe operator shortage in TriMet history

Starting today, April 22, all newly hired bus operators at TriMet will earn $25.24 per hour to start and be eligible to receive a $7,500 hiring bonus. That’s a $4,000 bonus increase! TriMet must hire more than 300 operators to bring staffing levels back to where they were before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent incentives have resulted in more applications coming in, but it hasn’t been enough to reverse the most severe staffing shortage in agency history.  

The new starting pay is a nearly $4 increase on top of the $4 salary upgrade TriMet made last fall. All operators receive regular, guaranteed pay raises according to our Working and Wage Agreement with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 757. Under the agreement, bus operators reach the top rate of $33.65 per hour with their 35th month of employment, guaranteeing a base pay of at least $68,000 before any overtime.        

TriMet relies and depends on our people. As we look to add back service that was reduced during the pandemic and due to the operator shortage, we’re committed to rebuilding the team that’s kept the Portland metro region moving for more than 50 years. Visit to learn more and apply today!

Get paid to learn the TriMet way

Another big perk of becoming a TriMet bus operator is that you can join our team, without needing experience driving a large vehicle like a bus! We are looking for candidates who enjoy people and find job satisfaction in providing excellent customer service to all riders, from all backgrounds and walks of life. Our fully paid, seven-week training course will teach you how to drive a bus the TriMet way. 

During training, new operators work 40-hour weeks at the $25.24 starting rate. In addition to classroom and field instruction, operators have the opportunity to earn their Commercial Driver License (CDL) certification during the training period. TriMet starts new training classes about every three weeks and has space for up to 26 new operators per class. All new operators must successfully complete TriMet’s training program before heading out on the road on their own.

Higher pay, bonus just the start 

In addition to the financial incentives to join our team, TriMet bus operators receive a generous package of benefits, which includes low- to no-cost health, life and disability insurance; paid vacation and sick time; a retirement account with a guaranteed employer contribution; union representation and more. All new employees also have access to:

  • Medical, dental, vision, disability and life insurance plans at low or no monthly cost
  • Two retirement plans, with an 8% agency base pay contribution to employee’s 401a
  • One week of paid vacation and up to 40 hours sick leave in the first year of employment, with paid time off increasing over time
  • Health and dependent care spending accounts
  • Access to our Employee Assistance Program with mental health and counseling services, legal assistance, financial coaching and home ownership programs
  • Annual transit pass (valued up to $1200) for employee and eligible family members
  • 24-hour access to five exclusive, low-cost, on-site fitness centers
  • Representation by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 757

TriMet bus operators have the option to pursue full- or part-time schedules of at least 25 hours per week.

A rewarding career with long-term stability

Making the decision to become a bus operator can signal the start of a rewarding, long-term career. It can also open the door to future opportunities at TriMet. All MAX train operators are bus operators first. Bus operators can also go on to become trainers, supervisors, schedulers or pursue other administrative roles at TriMet. 

Our operators make the job look easy, and while we do not require driving experience, applicants must be able to provide:

  • High school diploma or GED 
  • Valid driver license for three years
  • Clean driving record for past three years

In addition, candidates must successfully complete the following steps before being considered for a conditional employment offer:

  • Passing required CDL permit tests
  • Criminal background check
  • Medical exam
  • Drug screen

TriMet is regulated by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and must follow federal rules, regulations and mandates to remain in good standing and be eligible for federal funding for projects and initiatives that support mass transportation and the public transportation system for the Portland metro region. 

Driven by people

Like many U.S. industries, especially those that are customer and public-facing, TriMet is challenged by the current conditions in the labor market. In January, we temporarily reduced bus service by about 9% as a direct result of the operator shortage. That’s on top of the 10% service cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bringing more operators on board is critical, not only to restore TriMet service to pre-pandemic levels but also to service expansion opportunities in the future. We are currently in a phase of continuous hiring, with recruitment efforts extending beyond our tri-county service area to include Washington, California, Arizona and Nevada. Learn more at