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News / Business / Clark County Business

C-Tran driver shortage that’s causing missed trips and delays expected to continue for months

New drivers in training; current drivers call for service cuts

By Dylan Jefferies, Columbian staff writer, and
The Columbian
Published: May 31, 2024, 6:04am
2 Photos
C-Tran Route 71 is among those that have dropped trips because of a driver shortage.
C-Tran Route 71 is among those that have dropped trips because of a driver shortage. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

C-Tran passengers may experience delays and missed trips in the coming weeks due to an ongoing driver shortage.

“C-TRAN understands that this has been an ongoing issue, and our passengers remain our number one priority,” according to a rider alert sent out May 23. “We greatly appreciate everyone’s patience as we work diligently to remedy the situation.”

The shortage is impacting C-Tran systemwide, C-Tran spokesman Eric Florip said.

“Whenever service is impacted, we strive to make sure no area is disproportionately impacted,” he said. “We don’t want to drop the same time on the same route multiple days in a row.”

For information on missed trips, riders can download Transit, C-Tran’s trip-planning app, for real-time schedule information. Additionally, a list of upcoming missed trips is available at C-Tran.com/missedtrips.

TriMet in Oregon and Vancouver Public Schools have also experienced a critical shortage of bus drivers in recent years.

Board meeting

At a May 14 board meeting, Laura Merry, C-Tran deputy chief executive officer, said the agency is working to expand classes for newly hired drivers to help alleviate the shortage.

She estimated that the shortage will last “at least three months.”

C-Tran hires are required to take an eight-week course where they learn about C-Tran’s operations and receive a commercial driver’s license.

Two classes with about 10 drivers each are scheduled to conclude June 1, and another class is slated to begin June 10, she said.

“We’re probably about 20 or 25 fixed-route operators short,” she said. “I think if we can push through one way or another, we can get to a place where it is much better over the course of the next few months.”

She added C-Tran has explored bringing on third-party drivers and potentially cutting service but those short-term solutions are not palatable to many.

Some board members expressed support for short-term relief in the form of cutting service and bringing on temporary third-party drivers, especially after hearing from multiple drivers during public comment who discussed the toll of the shortage.

“If your long-term solution isn’t coming to fruition … do we need to cut service?” asked C-Tran board member Gary Medvigy, a Clark County councilor. “I heard that from at least one or two drivers today that that would be their solution. And maybe even though you’d lose ridership, and you’d have to earn it back, that may be the best short-term solution.”

Board member Tim Hein, who is a Camas city councilor, said he would rather bring on third-party drivers than cut service.

“I would like that to be looked at, personally, in the short term until a point in time where enough drivers can be trained to alleviate the current situation, whether it’s three months or six months,” he said. “I don’t like decreasing service at a point in time when we are working to build it back, and when people are relying on us to deliver that service.”