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Bi-State Development offers pay increases to attract more Metro Transit workers

Passengers board a bus on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, at St. Louis' MetroLink’s Grand Station.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Metro Transit is in dire need of drivers and mechanics. The company has increased wages and will provide on-the-job training to attract more employees.

MetroBus, MetroLink and Call-A-Ride continue to see driver shortages because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like other companies across the country, Metro Transit is struggling to retain drivers who can find higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

Metro Transit needs 150 drivers to keep people traveling throughout the region without any cutbacks to service.

To attract potential employees, Bi-State Development, which operates the transit system, has increased pay for drivers and mechanics. The company also is offering bonuses to new workers and providing on-the-job training opportunities, Bi-State Development President and CEO Taulby Roach said.

“We feel that it's just making the jobs more attractive, and so far, we're trying to move our numbers up as best we can,” Roach said.

Roach said the pandemic has limited the number of available drivers because workers continue to test positive for the virus. In December, 67 MetroTransit workers were out because of the virus. This month, 162 people called out of work.

To step up recruitment, Bi-State is holding monthly job fairs. It also has 21 people in training to become bus and train operators. Bus operators with a commercial driving license can earn $19.85 an hour, and those who do not have one can earn $18.53 an hour. Metro Transit also provides full benefits.

Union leaders say transit companies must increase driver pay to draw people into the field.

Many people pass up opportunities to work with Bi-State because other jobs also offer holidays, nights and weekends off, Amalgamated Transit Union President Reginald Howard said.

“They are trying to find ways to get people in the door because they've been having people turn down some of these jobs because they're not making enough money,” he said.

Howard said safety also is a concern for potential hires. The union is pushing for bulletproof operator windows to protect them.

“I've talked to some of the guys at work from the safety department about doing something to see if there's something that's going on nationwide or that they are looking at as far as some kind of protection for operators sitting up there in that seat,” Howard said.

Follow Andrea on Twitter: @drebjournalist

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.