Retaining Transit Workers Is About More Than Wages

An analysis of California transit employees found a high rate of burnout among operators who face unpredictable work schedules, high housing costs, and occasional violence.

1 minute read

March 4, 2024, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


New York MTA Bus

Sorbis / Shutterstock

A new report from UCLA's Institute for Transportation Studies highlights the causes of the persistent labor shortage in public transit at agencies across California. 

As Melanie Curry explains in Streetsblog California, the report finds that while better pay is an important factor for attracting and retaining transit workers, other obstacles include “a culture of exhaustion, burnout, and physical injuries” perpetuated by “understaffing, unpredictable and complicated scheduling practices, overtime requirements, long commutes, and too-short, sometimes rare breaks.”

The report notes that part of the problem stems from “the divide between operations vs capital funding,” which makes it easier for agencies to access capital funding — for building new lines or buying equipment — than operational funding, which supports worker wages and maintenance costs.

The report’s authors suggest changes such as streamlining hiring practices, reducing split shifts, providing bathrooms and bathroom breaks for workers, and limiting fare enforcement duties for operators.

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