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RTD Bus Driver, Train Operator Shortage Affecting Service

DENVER (CBS4)- Whether it's a ride to work or a night out, Coloradans rely on RTD buses and trains to get them where they are going. But the system can't operate without people.

RTD train and bus operators are responsible for moving people around the metro area and it can be a good career opportunity.

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"It really is a great place to work it has great benefits. You get paid more than minimum wage. It is a great customer service," said Pauletta Tonilas of RTD.

That's isn't always enough to convince people to become transit operators though because it's also a job that can be stressful. The hours can be long and odd and dealing with agitated or annoyed customers comes with the territory. Also, becoming a bus driver involves a rigorous and lengthy application process.

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"You have DOT regulations. You have to pass a physical the same as the truck drivers out on the highways do, and you can't do any drugs because you are drug tested. That's another thing in Colorado's current economy, a lot of employers are relaxing their standards, but you can't do that when it's a federal regulation that governs your commercial driver's license," said Bill Jones with Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1001.

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This has led to a shortage of bus drivers and train operators that's starting to affect service.

"We do have routes that a bus never leaves the garage for that first trip of the day, and that leaves people standing there at the bus stop," said Jones.

RTD says service has been impacted, but only slightly because of current RTD employees working overtime and on their days off.

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"It is a small impact on our service but we're able to keep things afloat" said Tonilas.

There are disagreements between the drivers' union and RTD about how to attract new operators. ATU Local 1001 says RTD isn't doing enough to recruit new drivers.

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"It's still a good place to work, there are still people who call it a career as opposed to a job but I don't think RTD is finding a way to reach out to the job seekers," said Jones.

RTD says they are trying as hard as they can. They say they are working with schools and community colleges to recruit, offer a hiring bonus and holding job fairs for potential applicants.

"We're doing everything we can to encourage people to give RTD a try," said Tonilas.

LINK: RTD Job Opportunities

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