Winter in Michigan is at its full force. This is typically the time when Michigan State University students leave their bikes and scooters behind and take the bus.
But they’re having to walk instead of ride.
Students have been dealing with bad bus service for a month. Now, the Capital Area Transportation Authority said it might not get better until March 6.
And the reason? The busses need drivers.
“Like every other employer in the region, CATA also faces staffing shortages,” CATA Chief Executive Officer Bradley Funkhouser said. “This has been widely reported by national, state, and local media, and is not unique to CATA.”
And what’s also familiar to CATA is Chris Taylor. He has been a bus driver for approximately three years and he said they have lost upwards of 70 drivers in the last year because of management.
“Bottom line is, a lot of drivers have left. They’ve had a hard time hiring new drivers because they can’t raise wages at all,” Taylor said.
He adds that drivers sometimes work 13 hours a day and, at times, receive only eight hours between two shifts. Including that the workers need a fair contract that they can vote in.
“Management decided not to give us a contract, and we have a federal case in court, unfair labor practice, that we’re waiting to hear back from.”
Getting a new contract is what drives him.
“We need to finish this contract, sign it, so we can push on so we can keep CATA the great organization that it has been for 50 years now,” Taylor said.
As for the students, they hope they can get to class on time — and stay warm in the process. Just like MSU student, Carson Moore.
“I hope that this community can come together and fix this problem that’s affecting a lot of people,” Moore said.
Funkhouser said that absenteeism at CATA remains high, but he and his team are optimistic that services could be on the path to returning to normal soon.
“Ongoing conversations with our union have led to the potential for increased service on campus after spring break, or on key routes based on a new driver class.”
He also wants the student riders to know that they are terribly sorry for the inconvenience this has caused for so many, especially at a time when Michigan’s weather is at its worst.