PHOENIX — The pandemic is still directly impacting jobs and the public transportation system.
Valley Metro is short so many drivers it's forcing them to temporarily cut some bus and light rail routes.
Living in downtown Phoenix Crystal Padilla uses public transportation all the time and says she has noticed a difference in service since the start of the pandemic.
"I remember waiting for a bus for 30 minutes and then waiting anther 30 minutes because the first one didn't show up," she said.
That missing route may be due to the fact that Valley Metro currently has 90 contracted positions to fill, most for bus drivers and light rail operators.
"Covid had a lot to do with it," said Susan Tierney with Valley Metro. "We've also lost operators to resignation," she said.
Tierney says the shortage has forced them to cut between 8% and 10% of scheduled trips thus far.
"We're working to build that service back up and get those operators back in the seats so we don't have missed trips," Tierney said. "We know what an inconvenience that is for our riders."
In the meantime, they encourage riders to download the Valley Metro App. There, Tierney says people can get updates on canceled trips and track buses and light rail in real time.
"It's a great way for you to be able to stay up-to-date on service as well as plan your trips in real time," Tierney said.
To attract new workers, Tierney says contractor First Transit is offering a $5,000 sign on bonus, full benefits, and you don't need a commercial driver's license right away.
"You can get the CDL on the job, and the contractor will actually pay for the CDL," she said.
Light rail rider, Robert Soto says he's sold.
"That sounds good to me!" Soto said. "I wish I could get a position like that."
Padilla also likes the idea of incentives.
"Incentives do work you know. I definitely encourage that because being a city worker I'm sure is very hard. It's very taxing," she said.
"Hopefully they can hire more drivers and get things rolling a little bit quicker like they once used to be," Soto added.
Tierney says their shortage is just part of the job story, as The City of Phoenix in central city and the west side is dealing with the labor shortage as well.
"Throughout the Valley there are other areas where there are operators missing in addition to that 90," Tierney said.
She also reminds riders to keep in mind that public transportation mask mandates are still in effect both nationwide and in Phoenix.
She says they've taken steps to protect their drivers like installing safety doors to separate drivers from riders.
As one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, Tierney says they need to get the open positions filled soon before pandemic restrictions are lifted.
"We need to continue to hold our service steady because we know the people are gong to be coming back," she said.