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CityLink driver shortage leads to delays and canceled bus routes


CityLink needs to get some new bus drivers behind the wheel if the public transit agency is to sustain its service levels.

Doug Roelfs, general manager at CityLink, said about 10 additional drivers are needed. Roelfs said the shortage leads to bus delays and route cuts.

"We figured it would be better that people knew there wouldn't be a bus than waiting day by day (wondering) if a bus was going to show up or not," Roelfs said. "So if we don't change our staffing levels pretty soon, we're probably going to have to cut some more routes."

Employees are putting in a lot of overtime to bridge the gap, and Roelfs said he's concerned about burnout and the health of the drivers.

CityLink is holding a job fair from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Aug. 9 at its administrative office, 2105 NE Jefferson in Peoria. Paratransit contractor Transdev also is hiring for open CityLift and CountyLink positions.

Roelfs said CityLink recently increased training pay from $16 to $18 an hour. The position does require a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Construction update

Roelfs said CityLink's new maintenance garage and administrative building is about 50% complete, noting the exterior is mostly done, and work is beginning to focus more on the interior.

He said maintenance and operations are currently housed in a small footprint, so the expansion is welcome.

"I'm excited for them because it's going to be a big boost and give them lots of elbow room so they're not bumping into each other," he said.

Roelfs said eight new maintenance bays also should be ready to go by November.

Phasing out the old fleet

A few years ago, Roelfs said none of CityLink's buses were eligible for replacement funding under the Federal Transit Administration's formula. Now, half the fleet is.

He said 10 new buses are set to go into production in March and should start arriving by the middle of next year. The public transit agency also received grant funding to purchase five additional battery-electric buses, though Roelfs said it may take a year or two for them to arrive. Another five buses will be sent in for a "midlife rehab."

Manufacturers give a bus a 12- to 14-year life expectancy, over which they'll accrue anywhere from half a million to 750,000 miles on the odometer.

"You'll probably also put in a new engine to by that time, but we then typically, you know, it can be 15 to 16 years before you get a replacement just because of the funding cycles and all that kind of stuff," he said.

Roelfs said the FTA funding cycle doesn't necessarily work on the timelines CityLink would like in order to keep a fleet running in prime condition.

"It makes it kind of hard for us to keep them maintained. And we're not the only ones. It's that way across the country. I hear the same stories everywhere I go," he said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.