Five union work rules that harm transit productivity

Since Alon’s comment a few weeks ago that union work rules, not wages and benefits, are the real problem with labor unions at America’s transit authorities, I’ve been looking into the matter, which seems to be something that a lot of transit boosters don’t like to talk about. It’s an uncomfortable subject for two reason: 1) urban planners and unions have an ideological affinity, and 2) it’s hard to lobby for increased subsidies for transit when you admit that you’re making poor use of the money you already have.

But despite planners’ reticence to talk about the problem, it needs to be addressed. Throwing money around is what governments do best, and while it might be an easy solution to problems in the short run, the money is running out. Some will surely quibble that we can afford to raise taxes and do more deficit spending, especially for something as vital as transit, but whether or not that’s true, the fact is that voters are increasingly doubting that it is, and so politicians are going to become stingier about doling out money for transit.

Anyway, the most obvious area for savings is in actual wages and benefits, but many mainstream conservative and libertarian publications have written a lot about this issue, so I want to focus on just inefficient work rules. These are rules that are written into union contracts hashed out in a political process, and management doesn’t have the authority to overturn them. I found surprisingly little on the issue in the academic literature, but there’s plenty on it in newspapers, and so here’s a round-up of the major issues that I found with various American transit unions. The list is by no means comprehensive – either of all the cities that have these problems, or even of the different types of problems – and I encourage people to share any knowledge they have on the subject in the comments. (I’m also interested in something that I suspect Alon may know a thing or two about – international comparisons. Do the notoriously union-happy French have these same rules?)

So, without further ado…

1. Mandatory eight-hour workdays and no part-time hiring. This one may surprise some since the eight-hour workday is one of organized labor’s most prized achievements, and indeed it works out well with most workers. But transit isn’t “most work,” and trying to force an eight-hour workday on it is problematic. Transit service has huge peaks during the morning and evening rush hours, so when transit agencies are forced to schedule workers for eight-hour shifts (or longer with overtime), some people end up sitting around doing nothing for part of each day. With train and bus operators, this leads to them doing nothing during the middle of the day when there aren’t as many routes to run. (At San Francisco’s Muni, there are apparently six divisions where drivers spend more time waiting for assignments than they do actually working.) With maintenance workers, it means people being scheduled for work during at least one rush hour per shift, during which they don’t have access to tracks and can’t really work. And of course management often isn’t allowed to hire part-time workers to solve this problem. [Berkeley Planning Journal, SF Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, NY Daily News, City Journal]

2. Seniority. Unions are run on seniority, and people who have been with the union longer often get to pick what work they do. A commenter from Portland explains:

Here in Portland, being a train operator (MAX or Streetcar – WES is staffed by employees of the shortline railroad on whose tracks the service run, not by TriMet employees) is considered a “senior” position; one that bus drivers with seniority may aspire for. Given that operation of trains is a different set of skills than operation of a bus – does this state of affairs make sense? By the same token, it’s frequently the case that experienced bus drivers (with lots of seniority) get to choose the easiest assignments – and frequently will pick suburban social-service routes; leaving the inexperienced drivers to haul crushloaded inner-city busses through rush hour traffic. Easier work assignments are frequently considered a “perk” of seniority. In the (nonunion) private sector one frequently observes the reverse – more experience and skill (and more pay) implies more difficult assignments. [Market Urbanism comment]

And then of course there are the infamous problems with escalator repair in DC’s Metrorail stations, which according to Unsuck DC Metro’s three-part series, are also the result of a seniority system. The “pick” system lets the most experienced employees choose which escalators they work on (or at least the general area), and they often pick the stations whose escalators are in least need of repair, leaving the really bad escalators to the less-experienced workers.

3. Tons of time off and little-to-no advanced notice required. Here’s someone who claims to be an operator with Muni, San Francisco’s public transit authority, who’s actually defending Muni workers’ sick day allowances:

I wonder where the one shift in six missed numbers come from. I am a Muni operator, and I certainly don’t miss that much time. I don’t have enough sick or vacation hours! I also wonder if that includes training/retraining time. The absenteeism rates are higher than for office workers, but there are some crucial reasons. As my wife (a high school teacher) pointed out, if she goes to work with a cold, she can still function. She can give her students desk work and try to relax a bit. If I work with a cold, an unexpected sneeze can kill someone. Working in transit ops requires full attention every second you’re moving. There isn’t an opportunity to zone out, massage your temples, take a coffee break. So our sick policies are a little looser than office workers are. How loose? I can call in sick three times a quarter (Jan-March, Apr-Jun, July-Sept, Oct-Dec), up to five days at a time, for a total of ten days a quarter without consequences. Mind you, I don’t have forty days of sick time a year! If I go over any of those limits, then I have to have doctor’s notes clearing me to come back to work and I can’t work any RDO (regular day off overtime). I have never been on the sick abuse list, and most of the operators I know who have been were there because of some family emergency.

We are expected to show up for work. All this reminds me of the miss-out kerfluffle from several years ago. (Muni operators don’t have to call in – they just don’t show up!) What the public wasn’t told was that I could (and still can) be charged with a miss-out if I am one minute late to work! I start today at 11:43 am. If I’m there at 11:44…

In addition to the unusually large amount of sick days, the way that the work rules handle operators missing work is problematic. Because workers don’t even have to notify management when they’re sick, the run is often delayed, and when someone is finally called in to do the job, they have to be paid overtime to do it. [Streetsblog SF]

4. Cross-utilization of labor not allowed. Some of the aforementioned problems (especially the constraints of the eight-hour work day) could be mitigated if workers were allowed to do other tasks, even menial ones, when they’re not needed with their primary job, but union contracts generally disallow this. Drivers can’t take tickets or work in information booths while they’re not driving, and maintenance workers can’t do either of those things or operate trains when they’re not able to work on the tracks. [Berkeley Planning Journal]

5. Overtime abuse. Overtime is already given out very liberally to unionized transit employees compared to private sector jobs, but one trick that they use at Muni to “monetize” their overtime is to call in sick on a day you’re scheduled and then work a day you’re not scheduled, for overtime pay, which you get even though you haven’t worked 40 hours that week. In the case of DC’s Metro employees, pensions are calculated based on the highest four years of income, which gives workers incentives to wrack up tons of overtime in order to boost their (already very generous) pensions. [SF Weekly, GGW]

…so, there you have it. Are there any work rules that I missed? How common are these rules – did I just find some isolated instances, or is this a deep, systemic problem?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Adam-Lang/636581327 Adam Lang

    On item #4:

    Philadelphia (SEPTA) has a great example of this.  If you have ever taken the subway to the Stadium Complex, you may have noticed the escalator runs up from the subway platforms to the exits.  This is great at the beginning of the games.  Oddly, when the games let out and you are heading down to the platforms, the escalator is still running up… the opposite direction of the people flow.

    A friend and I observed this and he called SEPTA.  The response was that a “mechanic” can only change the direction of the escalator.  Work rules prohibit the booth operator from walking 10 feet and turn a key to switch direction of the escalator.  It’s not cost efficient to send a mechanic there at the beginning and end of every stadium event.

    A simple relaxation of a work rule would increase the efficiency of the transit system in moving people.

  • poncho

    Great post. Couldnt agree more… Its the work rules that are the problem. Same goes to public school teachers in my opinion, its not the pay thats the problem (and infact teachers probably should be paid more), but its the ridiculous work rules they have that are unpopular and is clearly what should be reigned in first. Thanks for addressing this.

  • http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com Alon Levy

    In New York, the problems are different. Some of the problems you mention don’t really exist: for example, union member commenters tell me that vacation time requires a year of advance notice. And some big problems are not on your list: I think the biggest is that each agency’s staff is kept separate, so not only is there no cross-utilization of labor across different job titles, but also there’s no cross-utilization of labor across different divisions. One problem I keep hearing about is that the express Staten Island bus drivers are a different union or division from the regular city bus drivers, so after their a.m. rush hour trips they deadhead back (along with their equipment) instead of driving revenue buses within Manhattan or Brooklyn.

    Another problem is FUD about technological advances, for example OPTO. But the unions only share part of the blame for the presence of conductors on trains, especially on commuter rail. On commuter rail a major obstacle is an old-time railroading culture that’s related to but not the same as the unions, and the only management I know of that even tried to reform is SEPTA in the 1980s, whose managers were drawn from urban transit rather than mainline rail.

    I don’t know what the French rules are on your five points – sorry. I presume #3 is far bigger because of the more generous vacation time given in France, and I’d guess so are the other four, but I do not know. The complaints I’ve heard from within France about labor are different. First, the SNCF drivers like being given leeway to drive however they’d like, versus the tight dispatcher control on the Shinkansen; the result is worse schedule adherence. Further, SNCF gives bonuses for punctuality (defined by a five-minute standard) instead of fining for lateness as in Switzerland, which is not as good an incentive structure for schedule adherence. A different issue is that due to incompatible union cultures SNCF and DB never cooperate, which isn’t very visible with passenger rail but is brutal to transcontinental freight rail; freight trains can be held for hours at border crossings, while cars and passenger trains pass through as if the border did not exist.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. 

    Another work rule that is likely common (I know it is for all Bay Area systems), is the rule for a break at the end of each transit “run” rather than based on an amount of time. This creates an incentive for transit agencies to schedule ridiculously long routes more likely to suffer from bunching and delays, and also makes it much more expensive to utilize short runs along busy corridors during rush hours. This is largely the reason that there isn’t service from Millbrae directly to SFO airport any longer on BART (it’s two terminal stations, so for every seven minute run you’d have a fifteen minute required break), and part of the reason that SF Muni doesn’t run as many peak hour short lines as it once did – during the short period when you absolutely want as many buses and trains running as possible, any short run equals more time that the buses are chilling while a driver is on a break, even a shorter run would be more efficient otherwise.

    On the topic, I’ve often wondered why there is absolutely no push to build automated transit lines in the US, like those found on Vancouver’s SkyTrain or in Singapore. The frequency on Vancouver’s system (I rode it a few days ago, so it’s fresh in my mind) is mind-boggling compared to most US systems, yet the operating cost to operate this frequency is less than many other systems that have 1/3 the frequency.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    Damn, I forgot to include the agency separation. But as for the vacation time thing, I was talking about sick leave, not vacation time. I guess theoretically there’s a difference, but if you’re not requiring doctors notes, there’s nothing to stop them from taking it when they’re not sick.

  • carlos the dwarf

    The SF Muni worker’s defense of his sick time seems pretty convincing to me. Twelve sick days a year for a job that one really can’t do safely while sick is generous, but not outrageously so. That you’re shocked that someone would defend that says more about your views towards public workers than it does about the absurdity of union work rules. That said, the rest of your arguments are quite solid.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    I think you misunderstood it – he actually gets 40 sick days a year. When he says, “Mind you, I don’t have forty days of sick time a year!” it looks like he’s saying he can’t take forty sick days in a row. But if you read what he says about sick days per quarter, he gets ten of them (for a total of 40 per year), though he’s got to break them into chunks of five days or less (i.e., he can take a whole week off but not more).

    And keep in mind that’s all without a doctor’s note – if you get sick after you’ve used up your forty, it’s all kosher as long as you have a note.

  • carlos the dwarf

    Okay, now I see what you’re saying. I’m all for a generous sick leave policy, but 40 days is excessive.

  • http://twitter.com/capntransit Cap’n Transit

     Similar to OPTO is the use of conductors and paper tickets on the commuter railroads (LIRR, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit).

  • http://twitter.com/capntransit Cap’n Transit

     Similar to OPTO is the use of conductors and paper tickets on the commuter railroads (LIRR, Metro-North and New Jersey Transit).

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    The SNCF/DB union issue is interesting. I wonder if that’s a significant factor in European rail’s very low (at least compared to the US) freight modeshare? I’ve heard a lot of people claim that it’s due to Europe prioritizing passenger rail travel over freight, but union (and regulatory?) incompatibility sounds like just as good of an explanation to me.

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  • poncho

    Another one is in Portland on the streetcar is that fare checkers have to be union and paid a union rate. Instead the streetcar uses lower wage ‘fare surveyors’ that have no authority to cite people for lack of fare but just encourage people to pay from the TVM onboard and make note of the number of riders who pay and those that refuse to on a clipboard.

    I was once on a local bus in New Haven where the bus driver in the middle of the route with passengers onboard stopped along the street and got off and walked into a Dunkin Donuts, about 8-10 minutes later got back onboard with coffee and donuts and proceeded to continue the route. I was flabbergasted. I’m going to guess this probably tied into a work rule or at least a work rule that protected this kind of action from reprimanding. Likewise a visit to the observation deck at Philadelphia City Hall, there was an information desk employee who answered questions while continuing to play their hand held video game (didnt even look up and gave short quick answers), again like the NH bus, I’m assuming they are only able to get away with it because they are safe from reprimanding.

    These work rules are low hanging fruit. If the unions are looking for something to compromise on and give on, these should be the thing. They are hard to defend and getting rid of these would probably make unions more popular with the public at large as these rules really make them look bad and lazy and really tick off other workers/riders/etc. Personally I dont have a huge problem with their pay or benefits, more employees should be paid decently, dont drag them down, bring the others up. Afterall its hard to maintain an economy of mass consumption if most employees are paid just enough to survive, people needed to be paid fairly well to sustain the consumer economy we have.

  • Anonymous

    great post, albeit painful to read
    transit advocates need to get on the right side of these issues, regardless of “ideological affinity”

  • Anonymous

    love transit in Vancouver (granted its a relatively small city)
    but the knowledge that driverless trains is a non-starter many cities, mainly due to union politics rather than technology, is quite depressing. 

  • Rhywun

    “urban planners and unions have an ideological affinity”

    In what universe? The unions we’re talking about have a simple ideology: protecting jobs at any cost while extracting the maximum amount of money from taxpayers that they can get away with. A planner might advocate policies which would have the effect of, say, increasing the number of transit operators – or they might just as easily advocate automation and reducing the number of jobs. There’s no planning “ideology” that aligns with what unions want except as a matter of coincidence.

  • http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com Alon Levy

     I wonder the same; I’ve heard this as a major reason, but the minimum speeds on passenger-primary lines are obviously another reason. It’s probably overdetermined: for example China carries more ton-km of freight per route-km of rail than the US and more passenger-km per route-km of rail than Germany, so clearly the mere presence of passenger rail is not enough.

  • http://www.carfreebaltimore.com Mark

    What good is excellent transit infrastructure when the system can’t be run efficiently because of union rules? In my city, light rail operators are required to have years of experience driving buses for the same agency. Having 20 years of out-of-town experience doesn’t count – all LR operators must be promoted from within even if there are more experienced external candidates.

  • Anonymous

     Pure gut says that #4 is by far the biggest deal. If you can train all your workers to do a bunch of tasks and then have them do those that need to be done at any given point in time, many of the other problems fade away.  8-hour days are fine  because each guy works hard for his 8 hours and the next guy is trained to do any work he couldn’t. Vacation isn’t such a problem because there are lots of folks who can do the same job. There’s no reason for OT for the same reason.

    But you need massive multi-tasking. A transit cop should also be the janitor and the information booth in the 99 percent of the time that said transit cop is not stopping any illegal activity.

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  • Wad

    Seniority-based run bids are one of the toughest nuts to crack for transit systems. No transit agency can reasonably expect to win this as a concession; the agency can expect a strike. And the agency can expect to lose the strike.

    It’s not even the most obscene of the rules. In some ways, it may actually be beneficial to both the agency and the worker. Transit is not a field where supervisors know the best skill set for drivers. Also, drivers given a bad assignment may either sabotage service or perform poorly at the given route.

    One way around this would be to index pay to route productivity. Unions generally only care about pay and compensation outlay, not work produced per operator. You’d either have to have a fleet of various-sized buses, or work out something in the CBA that ties route performance to an index.

    Say you have a fleet of cutaway buses, regular sized buses and artics. You assign a pay scale according to the size of the bus. You’d set up a qualification procedure where the driver has to test for a promotion to a larger bus, and upgrades are limited to seniority. (There could be only 10 runs but 30 qualified drivers.) Also, the pay system would be set up so that the top scale of one bus is less than the minimum scale for the next qualifying bus.

    Say you have a fleet of cutaways, 40-foot buses and 60-foot buses. The pay scale would work roughly at, say $10-$14.75 an hour for the cutaway drivers, $15-$19.75 an hour for 40-foot drivers, and $20 to maximum for the artic drivers. The maximum can be up to $30 in order to keep the same productivity as the highest-paid 40-foot driver.

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    Man, I didn’t realize there was actually a name for it – “Seniority-based run bids”…you seem to know a lot about this! You say that it’s not even the worst of the union rules – what would you say is?

  • Wad

    I was a shop steward for my union at another job (not transit-related), so I have some familiarity with CBAs and how they work.

    The generic name for the assignment is a bid. At some shops, the colloquial name “paddle” has stuck. In the trolley days, the job assignment was affixed to a wooden paddle. But yes, drivers put in for bids and are given them based on seniority.

    I would say the worst of the rules are the ones that make it hard to discipline problem workers. It’s really an example of where a few bad apples really do spoil the bunch, as other workers begin to take cues and notice they can get away with anything and get over on management. San Francisco Muni is the most notorious example.

    Also, when the CBAs are so pedantic that both sides have to consult a phone-book sized contract that covers more action verbs than the Oxford English Dictionary, it becomes a mess. Then you have to set up a whole bureaucracy just to interpret CBAs and appeals.

  • Wad

    Mark, that’s standard practice in the U.S. The only exceptions I can think of are in San Diego County, where the Trolley is an independent operation from the three bus systems and the North County Sprinter is privately operated while the buses are handled in-house.

    Also, if your light rail is well-planned — so I am guessing you are not a resident of San Jose — the system itself is inherently efficient if it’s well-patronized. Think about this. A train operator, by seniority and the established pay scale for the specialty job, could be making about 150%-200% of a bus driver’s pay. But by running the train, they are doing the work of 3 or 4 bus drivers. They are far more productive.

  • Anonymous

     Heh. There should be a guerilla movement– get some keys made and have someone sneak in after the game and flip the escalator. Then it’ll stay that way because no one is authorized to change it!

  • Wad

    Driverless transit does not necessarily mean workerless transit.

    The vehicle operator is one part of the cost of an overall system. Vancouver’s Skytrain may be driverless, but the trains themselves aren’t self-cleaning or self-healing. They’ll still need a paid human to clean or repair the vehicles and the stations.

    A driverless system is massively capital-intensive. You need to have supremely high ridership volumes to justify a system that is overbuilt. An automated system can probably have a theoretical headway of 2 to 3 minutes. You might not be able to pull that off with a human-operated system due to cost, but remember … driverless is not workerless. A high-frequency system must be more intensely maintained in order to work. You’ll need more workers, and you’ll need to pay the mechanics and suppliers more if the components are specialized.

    You also don’t want to build an automated system just to avoid payroll. If you have a train system that has a 2 minute headway capacity, and you run it at 10, you’re only running at 20% capacity. That is extraordinarily bloated.

  • Wad

    Driverless transit does not necessarily mean workerless transit.

    The vehicle operator is one part of the cost of an overall system. Vancouver’s Skytrain may be driverless, but the trains themselves aren’t self-cleaning or self-healing. They’ll still need a paid human to clean or repair the vehicles and the stations.

    A driverless system is massively capital-intensive. You need to have supremely high ridership volumes to justify a system that is overbuilt. An automated system can probably have a theoretical headway of 2 to 3 minutes. You might not be able to pull that off with a human-operated system due to cost, but remember … driverless is not workerless. A high-frequency system must be more intensely maintained in order to work. You’ll need more workers, and you’ll need to pay the mechanics and suppliers more if the components are specialized.

    You also don’t want to build an automated system just to avoid payroll. If you have a train system that has a 2 minute headway capacity, and you run it at 10, you’re only running at 20% capacity. That is extraordinarily bloated.

  • http://pedestrianobservations.wordpress.com Alon Levy

    More on this later on my blog, but in developed countries, capital is cheap and labor is expensive.

  • Anonymous

    Even if you go with the exact same overall capacity, one major advantage of an automated system is the ability to run shorter trains more frequently, at essentially the same cost. So instead of a nine car train every 15 minutes, you can run a three car train every five minutes.

    Capital costs for Vancouver’s last extension were less than many very low frequency US light rail lines built, let alone any grade-separated heavy rail built in the US. I’d be curious to see any numbers showing that Vancouver spends significantly more on cleaning or maintenance than other systems with similar levels of ridership.

    To be clear, I’m not talking about running automated trains through suburban Phoenix, but certainly they should be looked at whenever we’re looking at expanding, building new, or replacing lines on the DC Metro, BART, NYC subway, etc, etc.

  • Charles

     I am the Muni operator who “actually” defended Muni’s old sick policies. Did you actually read what I wrote? Some of your critiques of union work rules are quite valid, especially the 8 hour minimums, OT abuse, and seniority issues. But please, be accurate! We have to notify management when we’re sick. We have to call in and say, “I’m’ going on the sick book.” We are held accountable for sick abuse. We always have been. My points stand regarding how sick a worker is to not have to come in to work.

    An update on Muni’s sick policy: last fall (2010) Muni management unilaterally changed the transit operator’s sick policy, in a clear violation of our contract. Calling in sick more than twice a year (as measured from the first instance) results in discipline. Have you ever had to call in sick more than twice a year? Yesterday I had to have a meeting with my boss because of a third sick call. I had a case of the flu last fall, followed a month later with a case of bronchitis that sent me to the doctor. I called in sick two weeks ago to attend a funeral in my family, after having been misinformed by one my managers about whether or not I could take bereavement leave. Please note, I didn’t just not show up to work. I _called in_ 24 hours before my shift. Does my attendance record seem reasonable?

    Fortunately, my boss is a reasonable man, and I probably won’t be given days off without pay for my third sick call, partly because of my dispatcher’s mistake, and partly out of compassion for my loss. But if I get sick before October, I may just have to start sneezing on my passengers, and hope I don’t sneeze while approaching a red light…

  • Charles

    The 40 days a year is how much I used to be able to take without discipline. I only accrue about 10 days a year worth of paid sick leave. I never got close to taking 40 days, because I might need my time in case of a serious off-the-job injury or illness.

  • http://boundedirrationality.wordpress.com/ Jason

    Nice post, though I would like to see the counterfactual. Is there evidence that transit services are more efficient in the absence of union rules? And what would be the impact (good or bad) on labor conditions?

  • http://rationalitate.blogspot.com Rationalitate

    It’s hard to isolate variables since there are so many – each agency has a heterogenous mix of rules (I doubt any agency, even Muni, has all of them), and then there are also many non-union-related factors that differ from agency to agency and effect productivity. I seem to remember an article about how back around 2000 MTA management was looking to renegotiate some of their union rules, but I don’t even know if they ever succeeded, nevermind how much efficiency they wrought out of it. But if you ever find anything, do let me know!

  • http://twitter.com/engineerscotty Scott Johnson

     Here at my cushy private sector job :), we only get five sick days per year.  However, we do also get long-term disability benefits, to handle longer-term illnesses and infirmities which might require extended absences from work.  Obviously, the levels of documentation needed to qualify for LTD are far greater than a phone call to the boss saying that you’re not feeling well and aren’t coming in…

  • http://twitter.com/engineerscotty Scott Johnson

     Should employees be compensated due to “productivity”, or due to the difficulty and/or skill involved?  

  • Guest

    BART did run a shuttle from SFO to Millbrae and found that only 150 people a day rode it.  That’s why it was killed.  However, there are a few runs at off-peak times that use the train from Pittsburg to SFO as a shuttle.   When the shuttle ran, union rules based on yard shifts were used.  So, those operators didn’t get a “bonus”.  

    Overtime is generally a wash.  An employee gets a fixed amount of benefits – medical, vacation, etc.  And a fixed overhead generates payroll, etc.  In general, an employee already costs “time and a half”.  Paying them for overtime costs about the same as paying a straight time person.

    Double time is arguably more expensive, but in reality, only about a quarter of all overtime is double time.  And BART tends to staff a lean operation.  Right now, the extra board (systemwide) is 23 operators out of 400, or so total (full and part time).  

    BART operators and station agents can’t share crafts  (WMATA allows this).  Similar to Muni, BART has 12 sick days a year.  More than 3 in a row requires a doctor note. 

  • Wad

    Yes and yes.

    Ultimately, there’s a bottom line in payroll liabilities and the transit agency will still have to pay the same people the same money. Still, productivity is an important measure to consider.

    Because runs are bid by seniority, high-seniority drivers tend to gravitate toward the least productive lines. This makes services more expensive. A high-seniority driver may like a shift in which he or she carries less than 100 passengers. When the driver was new, he or she would only be left to bid on a shift that involved driving several hundred or possibly a thousand passengers a day.

    One way to accomplish it is to tailor runs to productivity. As I’ve said, it helps to have different-sized vehicles (cutaway, 40-foot bus, 60-foot artic). With size differences, each vehicle requires training to understand handling (if your city’s bus system has artics, see whether the driver can get the rear segment in line with the front at a stop :) ). Also, vehicles would be put where appropriate (no cutaways on trunk routes, no artics on dial-a-ride). This way, drivers can test for and be trained on routes that become increasingly difficult as the vehicle gets larger.

    The other way could be to index bids to ridership. Higher ridership routes would get a premium, or conversely, lower ridership routes would get a discount.

    The benefit to the rider is that lower productivity routes have a better chance of surviving with a lower-paid driver.

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  • tim holt

    The fix is an easy one and it’s right around the corner.  We ERADICATE EVERY UNION in the U.S…….problems, all of them solved immediately by kicking the worthless scum to the curb for life.

  • tim holt

     Keep solidifying the already numerous reasons to eradicate the union scum from America.

  • paulinpittsburgh

    Really don’t need to do that at all.  Public sector unions are the only ones we as tax payers need to address.  They’re the ones that have the cozy relationship with the Democrats they “negotiate” their contracts with, they’re the ones bankrupting the nation, they there ones who don’t make a product or service that has to compete and they’re the ones who’s abuses go on unchecked perpetually for all those reasons and more.

    Similar types of behavior and abuses by private sector unions have a way of being resolved by themselves over time, just ask the USW and the UAW.   For those unions we just need to remove barriers to competition and eliminate any regulation that even has a whiff of protectionism and let market forces keep them in line.

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