PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — Republican gubernatorial candidate Ashley Kalus addressed the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s driver shortage on Tuesday.
During a press conference, Kalus outlined “short-term, yet immediate” solutions to the driver shortage.
The Republican said she would work with RIPTA to find retired bus drivers, who can still collect their pensions.
According to RIPTA’s CEO, about 60 drivers have retired since the start of the pandemic.
If the agency can’t find retirees, Kalus said RIPTA should partner with the Department of Labor and Training to train and bring drivers on board.
Another solution she proposed was to activate National Guard members, who are licensed commercial drivers, to operate the buses. This option would only apply if Kalus were elected governor and declared it an emergency.
Last month, spokesperson for RIPTA, Christy Raposo Perry, announced that the agency was looking to fill 31 driver vacancies.
Raposo said the agency met with the governor’s office and Amalgamated Transit Union Division 618 to “discuss how to resolve recent bus service disruption for Providence Schools students.”
Route cancellations have left students with no choice but to find alternative transportation to school.
After Kalus’ press conference, RIPTA drivers union vice president Joe Cole spoke to ABC 6 News at Kennedy Plaza and said he supports both Kalus and McKee trying to outline plans to solve issues that have plagued RIPTA.
He told reporters cancellations should be behind us, but there may still be delays as new plans for buses start to be put in place.
“That’s going to be taken care of. The other issue is the frequency of the buses. They’re going to be extended. People will still be waiting for buses, but at least they’re going to be coming this time because we’ve lost over 500 trips,” Cole said.
Cole said some of these delays of waiting for buses could continue on into early 2023, as RIPTA continues to work to implement new drivers it has hired, saying a recent career fair for employees was a success, filling a number of positions.
Kalus’ political opponent, Gov. Dan McKee, recently called these issues unacceptable and noted serious concerns about the agency’s ability to deliver promises to address the district’s needs.
Read more at abc6.com.