San Luis Obispo Transit’s shortage of bus drivers and temporary technical issues are halting routes, which is straining services for local and campus residents.
SLO Transit announced Oct. 4 that routes 3B, 4A and 4B will be temporarily suspended due to technical matters. This doubles down on SLO Transit’s already modified bus schedule for Cal Poly’s academic year, which was invoked on Sept. 20 due to a driver shortage that follows national labor shortage trends.
In a pre-pandemic year, the start of Cal Poly classes would call for additional transportation services in the morning and night to accommodate a higher demand.
To meet this demand with a shortage of drivers, SLO Transit has temporarily closed several bus routes and adjusted pickup intervals, according to a press release issued by SLO Transit.
Each of the four numbered routes the city has to offer consists of an A and B track. The A track travels in a clockwise direction, whereas the B track travels in a counterclockwise direction. This system ultimately works to reduce travel times for transit riders.
However, the released modifications for the academic year have temporarily suspended B tracks for route one (which travels from Johnson Avenue to the airport) and two (which travels from Higuera to Madonna). Additionally, routes from downtown to San Luis Drive neighborhood and Los Osos Valley Road have been suspended.
Routes three and four, which travel to the Cal Poly campus, will remain in service for Cal Poly students and faculty since they make up 50 to 60% of riders.
Oris Martin, a driver for the city since May, said this shortage of bus drivers ultimately takes away from the community at large.
By prioritizing student and faculty pickups, members of the community such as the elderly and handicapped are left without transportation due to the modified routes, Martin said.
“The hours, on top of the fact that we are running as much as we can, you know, it puts a strain on the drivers as well as for the students,” Martin said.
Although Cal Poly students are receiving similar services in years past, class and bus schedules still act as a hurdle for several Cal Poly riders.
For liberal studies senior Alexis Garcia, the bus schedule is just one aspect of her daily commute.
Garcia commutes from Santa Maria every day first by a 40-minute car drive to a nearby apartment complex and then catching the 3A bus route to her morning class.
She said she doesn’t necessarily notice the shortage of bus drivers, but feels a level of restraint due to her schedule revolving around bus pick-up and drop-off times.
Garcia is a transfer student who spent her first year at Cal Poly in a virtual learning environment and is only now as a senior attending Cal Poly’s campus. She said this commuting process has already become exhausting.
“I’m not really able to join clubs or commit to really anything else because my whole 40-minute drive is required in order to just get to get my classes on time,” Garcia said. “That whole college life — I don’t get to experience that.”
Architecture senior Lindsay Campbell also said bus pick-up intervals create large gaps of time in her schedule.
Although Campbell enjoys these breaks to complete homework assignments and bask in the sun, it is another variable to account for in her daily schedule.
City Transit Assistant Jesse Stanley told KCBX that this specific labor shortage can be attributed to a series of factors, such as several transit agencies reducing their services during the pandemic and thus needing less employees.
Operations will return to full capacity once more drivers are hired and complete at least six weeks of training. Stanley told KCBX there is no timeline on when services will be fully reinstated, but they are in the process of hiring more drivers.
Editor’s note: this post was edited to include a link to a source.