20% of Miami-Dade Transit’s bus drivers absent every day
Twenty percent of Miami-Dade Transit’s bus drivers are absent every day, all the time, which costs the county money, according to Mayor Carlos Giménez.
Miami-Dade’s contract with the Transportation Workers Union (TWU) almost incentivizes absences, the mayor said May 4 at Commission Chair Esteban Bovo Jr.’s policy council meeting.
Now, the county wants to outsource little-used bus routes that yield too little revenue.
TWU representative Clarence Washington told commissioners the union was not invited to a March 30 meeting with the administration. Now, the administration, along with transit chief Alice Bravo, is to meet with the union at 1 p.m. today (5/11) to discuss outsourcing buses with low ridership and to negotiate driver absenteeism.
Mr. Washington said a March meeting was forced on the union. He said he was informed the bus routes would be outsourced because of low ridership.
“We have an absentee rate of 20% that’s causing a lot of overtime,” Mayor Giménez said. “We need to take the routes that do not generate revenue and contract them out.”
No transit worker will be laid off, the mayor vowed.
Mr. Washington said the union feels contracting out routes won’t help. “Transportation to the public is no different from [the fire or police department]. It’s a service we must provide for the public. The small community of routes [being discussed] are not supposed to ride lots of people. They say we’re not making any money on these routes.”
Mr. Washington said the union has “upwards of 40 people working” on those routes and they’re not supposed to, creating a manpower issue.
“We have a number of routes with very little ridership,” the mayor said. “The average cost per hour is $130. A private company will run at $50 an hour.” He said the contracted bus firm would use the same system for complaints and any county contract with a private operator could be halted at any time.
“No transit system makes money, but we can reduce the loss,” the mayor said, in agreement with Mr. Washington, who also said union workers have been under attack so much that they’re not even able to provide the service.
Dennis Moss asked Mr. Washington why he couldn’t be ready to meet today. “We don’t think we can complete going through the information,” Mr. Washington said, adding that management gave the union detailed reports.
The county plans to discontinue three bus routes that are mostly circulators and never exceed 20 passengers throughout the day, Ms. Bravo said. “Our goal through these efficiencies is to save [money] on overtime. Overall, our anticipation is that these changes will have a total annualized cost savings of $23.7 million.”
Ms. Bravo said the circulators complement the county’s transit service. “They help us focus our resources on the longer-distance commutes.”
Mr. Washington said the union feels contracting out circulator routes won’t help people the buses are supposed to move.
Mr. Moss voted ‘No’ on Mr. Bovo’s resolution to use savings from bus route changes that could take effect Nov. 19 to add other transit, saying he wants to hear the outcome of today’s meeting. A shift in fund use would require a full commission vote.