Bus privatization could help T with drivers, group says – Boston News, Weather, Sports

Warning that cutting the service would hurt public health and mobility options, the head of an influential business group on Wednesday called on the MBTA to consider bringing in private buses to deal with a driver shortage.

Rick Dimino, president and CEO of A Better City, criticized T’s plan to cut the number of bus trips it makes by about 3% this winter, affecting more than 30 bus routes, as “A step in the wrong direction as MBTA is expected to increase frequency, increase demand and build better.”

MBTA officials estimate that they would need 80 to 100 additional full-time drivers to meet the existing schedule without disrupting journeys.

Ahead of a public meeting Wednesday night on the matter, Dimino urged agency officials to take substantial action to overcome their hiring problems and consider looking to the private sector.

A section of state law named after Sen. Marc Pacheco de Taunton requires state agencies to prove that privatizing a public service will both save money and to maintain at least an equal level of service.

Dimino has suggested that the impending MBTA cuts are serious enough to warrant exploring a waiver of that mandate.

“The MBTA – and the Commonwealth – must do more to attract and retain skilled job seekers, including looking to other markets for emerging best practices, increasing financial incentives and, if necessary, hiring private bus services to replace underserved routes, ”Dimino said. “If this requires a temporary exemption from the Pacheco Act, Governor Baker and the legislature must act quickly. ”

The T stressed that its impending bus cuts, which are slated to take effect on Dec. 19 with the new winter schedule, are a response to a labor shortage, not a cost-control measure.

“There is enough funding at the MBTA to bring our vital transit systems back to pre-pandemic levels and help the Commonwealth’s economic recovery,” Dimino said. “The whole region depends on frequent, reliable, affordable and equitable transit services.

Faced with a shortage of school bus drivers in many districts, the Baker administration activated the National Guard in September to help fill the gaps.

About 200 National Guard personnel drove school buses nearly 330,000 miles before their assignment ended in November.

(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.

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