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$4,500 signing bonus among perks


The MBTA is not making much progress on hiring bus drivers, an issue that could continue to result in lower service levels and hamper the agency’s efforts to overhaul its entire bus network.

Tom Waye, chief human resources officer, said Thursday there are a “significant” number of bus operator positions that still need to be filled, a figure that was last updated in September, when the MBTA reported 350 vacancies.

While Waye said the T was making progress in this area, in response to an inquiry from MBTA board member and Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch, this assessment was quickly disputed by Chief Administrative Officer David Panagore.

“We’re making progress from the point of view of filling our class sizes,” Panagore said. “In terms of the bucket to fill, in terms of overall, with retirements, etc., we’re holding steady. We’re making some progress. But we’re not making the progress we really want to see.”

To attract drivers, the MBTA is offering commercial driver’s license permit training for the first time. The agency is paying for the approximately $4,500 course and a permit that ranges from $50 to $90, in addition to offering a $4,500 signing bonus.

Waye said 38 new hires took part in the first pilot training program in late October, but 11 dropped out, either by choice or for failing their second permit attempt or CDL test twice. The MBTA also terminated one person for poor attendance.

Twenty-seven employees are in that current class and 51 hires were still in the second pilot training class, as of Jan. 11, according to Waye’s presentation.

Retirements that kicked in this year exacerbated the bus driver shortage, Panagore said, which already led the MBTA to cut service on 43 bus routes last summer.

In addition to those 300-plus vacancies, the MBTA said it has to hire roughly 400 more before it can implement its bus network redesign plan, which promises more frequent service throughout the system.

The 750 additional bus drivers have to be hired over the next five years, MBTA officials have said.

“It is a very hard and tall slog as it’s been for many months,” Panagore said.


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