Park City Transit recently ended bus service from the Homestake park-and-ride lot, citing a lack of use by drivers and also a lack of bus drivers to service it—an example of how the low unemployment rate affects Park City.
In the peak winter season, Park City Transit has around 130 drivers on staff; in the shoulder season, the roster dips to 60 or 70. Park City Interim Transportation Director Alfred Knotts says this is the first year Park City Transit has kept mostly the same service during the off season as was available during winter. Now that the summer schedule is in effect, another route has been added back into rotation, and service for some routes has been extended until later at night. That makes riding the bus more convenient for passengers, but with only about half the staff as in winter, drivers have a lot to take on.
"We're doing a lot of overtime, so we're having drivers pretty much driving five, six days a week," Knotts said. "But also operating under the provisions and requirements of OSHA, making sure they're not operating vehicles beyond the hours they could be required."
Knotts says the City is constantly recruiting for bus drivers. But a lack of jobseekers and a few other hurdles have made it difficult to hire. At the top of the list, Knotts says, is access to housing.
"That's one of our biggest barriers and impediments of people being able to come here is availability of affordable housing," Knotts said. "We have housing here on site as well, for up to 15 drivers, and then we have the Prospector housing we just built. Then there's the old Peace House building that we’re also converting into driver housing."
Another is that Utah is flush with transit districts—and they’re all hiring.
"Unlike many resort towns that are located very far from urban areas—they're kind of the only show in town, so they are able to recruit and retain drivers a little bit more easily," Knotts said. "That's a difficult thing for us with having UTA right down the hill. That's unionized, pays a competitive salary and has more affordable housing or housing options. Same thing with Cache Valley Transit up in Logan, and the [University of Utah] has a big transit system, too, so we have a lot of competition around us."
Park City is always looking for both seasonal and full-time drivers, but right now, Knotts says part-time drivers are really needed, to relieve full-timers working overtime. Not only is overtime expensive, but Knotts says it also takes a toll, unsurprisingly, on driver morale.
"They do have lives, too, and they need to be able to to plan vacations," Knotts said. "They need to be able to plan to go to to soccer tournaments; they need to plan to just have some time off."
Park City Transit offers drivers a starting wage around $18 an hour, with the possibility of promotion. Knotts says drivers also have professional development opportunities and that, when they’re not scheduled to drive, they do side projects and administrative work. He wants to make sure drivers know that the transit industry is a huge part of the national infrastructure, and if they work with Park City Transit, that experience can translate to other job opportunities down the line.