PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Wanted: Bus drivers for the Port Authority — decent pay, reasonable benefits — but a high risk that you might be laid off later this year.
“People are not happy to come here anymore because there is no certainty in employment,” said Steve Palonis, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union.
Palonis says retirements are creating a need for new bus drivers but applications are down because Gov. Tom Corbett and the legislature have not yet created a permanent solution to the public transit funding crisis.
“The problem is funding,” Palonis told KDKA money editor Jon Delano. “We don’t have a reliable source of dedicated funding. As you know, the Governor only ‘flexed’ us so much money to operate through September. If we don’t get that comprehensive transportation bill, they’ll be reductions of 35, 40 percent come here in September.”
While the union has made pay and benefit concessions and the county has come up with its share, the state is still AWOL.
“We are kind of waiting to see what is happening at the state level in terms of transportation funding, but we are hopeful that a sustainable funding solution will be on the table,” noted Heather Pharo, a Port Authority spokesperson.
Thirty million dollars is what is needed, but in the meantime, 14 to 16 drivers who first applied three years ago will be going through training later this month.
“As a student operator in training, they’re paid about $10 an hour. Then, when they become a full bus operator, they’ll be paid 17.06 per hour,” said Pharo.
As for the future, the Port Authority says it is looking for perhaps as many as 50 more new applicants.
But exactly when they might be trained and start work depends on both retirements and state funding.
“They may have to wait six months; they may have to wait a year before they start work,” added Pharo.