TriMet to temporarily reduce service levels this fall due to historic operator shortage

by

Beginning with our fall service change in September, TriMet will shift, reduce or cancel some service until operator numbers increase further

TriMet is adjusting service on 10  bus lines this fall as we temporarily reduce service levels based on our available workforce. This comes amid the largest operator shortage in agency history. While most of the affected lines currently see low ridership, TriMet took a balanced and careful approach with an eye on preserving service in areas with high concentrations of people with low-incomes and communities of color.

Reduced service will take affect starting on September 18, 2022. We aim to begin adding back the service hours in 2023 as long as our operator ranks continue to increase.

“We would much rather be expanding our transit service. But by reducing our service levels, we increase our schedule reliability so riders experience fewer canceled or late buses,” said TriMet General Manager Sam Desue, Jr. “While rebounding from this historic operator shortage will take some time, TriMet is committed to hiring scores of new operators to meet the needs of our community.”

Temporary service level reductions

Beginning with our fall service change in September, TriMet will shift, reduce or cancel some service, with a focus on low ridership lines and times.

  • Cancel two bus lines: 50-Cedar Mill and 92-South Beaverton Express
  • Reduce service hours on three low-ridership bus lines to only run buses during peak travel time for high school students: 1-Vermont, 18-Hillside and 26-Thurman/NW 18th
  • Weekend service will be canceled on 26-Thurman/NW 18th Ave
  • Cancel extra weekday rush-hour trips on three bus lines as peak ridership trends have changed: 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th, 9-Powell Boulevard and 72-Killingsworth/82nd Ave
  • Cancel extra trips added during the pandemic for physical distancing on one bus line: 81-Kane/257th
  • Reduce frequency on one low-ridership bus line to hourly service: 82-South Gresham

TriMet will also be making some slight adjustments with our TriMet FX™ (Frequent Express) bus service launching on Sept. 18. The new service along Division Street will still give riders a faster and more convenient way to travel between Gresham and Downtown Portland, using longer buses with multiple-door boarding and transit-priority in key locations. Once up and running, it will improve service along the busy corridor, reducing travel times by 20%.

Buses on the FX 2-Division line will run every 12 minutes for the majority of the day with only a couple of buses added during commuting hours. With the Line 2 being replaced by the FX 2-Division, the Line 10-Harold St route will still change and weekend service will be added. But we will not be able to add buses during the weekdays as we had planned.

Forward Together

The trickle-down effects of our operator shortage can cause frustration despite our best efforts. In short: it’s been a challenge to hire and train enough operators to replace those lost to retirement and attrition. And we’re not alone. Because our operator shortage is part of a larger trend affecting transit agencies and industries nationwide, we’ve taken unprecedented actions to recruit and retain the talented workforce on which our riders rely. We’ve bumped up the starting pay to $25.24, boosted our hiring bonus to $7,500 and begun looking outside state lines to bring in new operators.

When we do grow our operator ranks and start adding back service, we want to make sure we are serving the needs of our community. With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way people travel, TriMet has launched Forward Together, a comprehensive service analysis and community engagement effort to determine a better bus system. 

We’re taking a look at where buses are running now and where they should run. And the community is involved. We’re asking if we should focus buses on where people ride the most or spread them out to serve more neighborhoods. We’ll be sharing more about the effort in the coming months.

Join the team!

Join us in helping people reach destinations around the region while easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution.

In addition to a starting salary of $25.24 an hour and a $7,500 hiring bonus, TriMet operators receive many other benefits that only increase over time:

  • Operators receive regular pay increases over their first three years, with pay topping out at $68,000 annually for full-time employees.
  • All new bus operators receive seven weeks of paid training, including commercial driver’s license (CDL) education and certification.
  • With our retirement accounts, TriMet makes a monthly contribution of 8% for union employees based on their pay.
  • Bus operators accrue one week of paid vacation and up to 40 hours sick leave in the first year of employment, with time off increasing after the first year.
  • TriMet offers health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance plans and contributes up to 95% of monthly health insurance premiums.  
  • All employees and eligible family members can receive an annual transit pass (valued up to $1200).
  • Employees and eligible family members have 24-hour access to five exclusive on-site fitness centers, with plans starting at just $13/month.
  • TriMet bus operators receive representation by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 757.

You can put yourself in the driver’s seat and join the TriMet team by visiting trimet.org/driveforus.