High attrition the cause of GGT’s cancellations

This morning, no fewer than 5 Golden Gate Transit buses were cancelled: 2 runs of Route 24, 2 runs of Route 54, and 1 run of Route 27. Other routes don’t have email alerts, so it’s unknown whether any of those were cancelled. It’s also unknown whether any northbound trips will be cancelled this evening.

At least we know there’s a solution under way. Under the post on Golden Gate Transit’s (GGT’s) high cancellation rate on Route 54 and elsewhere in the system, customer service responded with an answer:

Golden Gate Transit’s goal is to never cancel trips on our routes, and we do everything possible to prevent cancellations. Unfortunately, we have fewer drivers right now due to a much higher attrition rate than expected. Because of this shortage of drivers, we have had more cancellations than we have experienced for some time. Employees are volunteering to work extra hours to minimize these disruptions in service. When Golden Gate Transit is forced to make a cancellation, we rotate routes so that one route is not harder hit than any other. We try to distribute cancellations as evenly as possible throughout our system. We encourage our customers to sign up for our rider alerts so they may get notification via email or text when there are cancellations or other service disruptions. Visit our website at http://www.goldengate.org to sign up for these alerts.

The current bus operator class graduates later this summer, with another class expected to graduate by the end of the year. Both of these classes are larger than most training classes, and will hopefully provide Golden Gate Transit the manpower it needs to prevent cancellations. We appreciate your patience while we work hard to alleviate this problem and want our riders to know that we are dedicated to bringing you reliable service.

While knowledge of the cause of the disruptions certainly doesn’t make them any better or tolerable, it’s good to know there is a solution in sight. Without dates we won’t know when this solution is coming, of course, but I suspect that by September things will look better.

Once the situation improves, GGT must go out of its way to repair its tarnished image. A week of free trips on the effected lines would certainly help, as would some old-fashioned PR outreach. Implementing real-time arrivals would help, too.

Alas, until then, GGT commuters should keep an ear out for cancellations. Follow and report missing buses on Twitter with the #missingbus tag. Email contact@goldengate.org to sign up for text alerts for select routes – 24, 27, 54, and 76 (other routes aren’t available). Keep your fellow commuter apprised.

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About David Edmondson
A native Marinite working in Washington, DC, I am fascinated by how one might apply smart-growth and urbanist thinking to the low-density towns of my home.

3 Responses to High attrition the cause of GGT’s cancellations

  1. Stephen N says:

    Dave, One of the strengths of bus transit vs. rail transit is that it can be flexible according to ridership demand. While it may be frustrating for some riders, I do not think it is unwise for the GGT to cancel routes that are low ridership and INCREASE pollution per passenger mile. Saving resources for investment in green technologies and improved service makes sense. For example, smaller, more fuel efficient vans may be able to deliver greater efficiency, higher satisfaction, and improved service than large intercity buses.

    • Franz Listen says:

      Stephen – the cost of transit is in labor, not so much in fuel. Using smaller vehicles like vans would cost more in the long run. For efficiency’s sake, transit operators do a lot of “interlining” meaning that when a vehicle finishes its run on one route, it begins service nearby on a totally different route. If GGT had vans running a low volume route, those vehicles couldn’t be pressed into service for higher volume routes. They would have to “deadhead” back to base, which creates an inefficiency. Plus, the more types of vehicles an operator has, the greater the maintenance complexity, and the greater the operating cost.

      As for the run cancellations by GGT- they are not a shrewd and coldly-rational pruning of low ridership routes. The GGT spokesperson even said specifically that they were trying to spread the pain. Consequently, there is nothing strategic or optimizing about this. This is just GGT randomly dropping certain runs for a lack of drivers – to the understandable annoyance of its customers.

      What exacerbates this problem is labor inflexibility, and the inability to bring on help quickly or temporarily. This labor inflexibility is a direct product of the fact that collective bargaining with the Amalgamated Transit Union determines the GGT labor structure. Many riders and transit activists demand that GGT management provide relief without grasping that relief cannot be easily provided because of inflexible structural barriers.

      To change this situation at a deep level, we need to get rid of the federal law that mandates the use of organized labor (Section 13 (c)) in transit operations to allow local operators more flexibility. Then, at our local level we need to cut out the self-serving, special interest middle-man and create a more direct relationship between public employers and transit employees. This is what those who value transit ought to be seeking. Do we want cities and places with good, efficient, and reliable public transit……OR do we want a mediocre public service that is mainly about enriching the ATU. We must choose one, and not choosing is opting for the latter.

      • Stephen N says:

        The argument shifts Franz. I thought we were talking about the Environmental efficiency of mass transit. I do agree that labor costs per mile are higher but capital costs are lower. In many countries-especially emerging economies, a private van service operate in conjunction with public transit They serve a need of low cost transport at less cost than taxis and more convenience than buses. Because clean technology is easier achieved with small vehicles, it makes sense to explore this option. No one is saying that it must be a “public” supported. Why not allow private companies to provide this type transportation? Low emission vans are readily available at low cost.

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