Riders left stranded as bus driver shortage drags on in Kelowna

Bus driver shortage drags on

A woman who regularly rides Kelowna Regional Transit from the Black Mountain area says she was left waiting for a bus that never arrived last Friday.

She told Castanet she waited for the number 14 bus and when it was a no-show, she called transit to find out why. She was told there was a driver shortage and there would be no service that day to Black Mountain.

It’s not the first time Kelowna Regional Transit has had to cancel buses on short notice because it didn’t have enough bus operators.

“The continued rise in Omicron cases is affecting all industries, including transit drivers,” explains Jay Brock, a spokesperson for First Transit. “ We’re always looking for people that want to make a difference in their community, and opportunities for drivers are available year-round.”

Brock points out that the starting wage for First Transit drivers supporting Kelowna operations is $23.82/hour during probation and rises to an hourly rate of $25.30 after probation. The company also pays for driver training and helps operators get their commercial licenses.

It’s an ongoing problem, and not just in Kelowna.

In a statement issued to Castanet BC Transit said that like many customer-facing organizations, it is currently facing a labour shortage in a number of transit systems across the province.

The organization is experiencing continued service disruptions due to the ongoing impacts of employees calling in sick, and that has resulted in the cancellation of some service on short notice.

“We understand this can be frustrating and appreciate the patience of our customers.

“First Transit is continuing to recruit and hire new transit operators to ensure BC Transit service remains reliable for our customers in the Kelowna Regional Transit System.”

Brock adds that anyone interested in joining First Transit can check out www.workatfirst.com for driver opportunities.

Castanet reached out to the president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 722 for comment but did not hear back by the time of publication.

Earlier this month, the union announced it had won a BC Labour Relations Board decision allowing the certification of Kelowna Regional Transit mechanics and clearing the way for a bargaining unit representing all employees.

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