Staffing shortages from omicron variant hitting SMART bus routes, schedules hard

Like some Metro Detroit passengers, Diedra Jones was hoping to catch a SMART bus so she can get to work - but routes have been cut back or delayed.

"It was supposed to be a bus here at 1:05 and it’s still not here," she said. "I’ve been out here a good little minute in the cold."

Her prolonged wait for a SMART bus at the State Fair Transit Center in Detroit comes as the public transportation provider says it’s service is being impacted by the omicron variant.

"What we are experiencing right now in particular, is drivers either testing positive for or quarantining isolating per our SMART policy and so not available to drive," said Robert Cramer, deputy general manager of SMART. "Without a driver driving the vehicle, it’s difficult to get that service out on the road."

Officials at SMART say service has to be cut when a driver is unavailable.

"I’m about to be late because this bus is not here," said Jones.

"Last week each day between 15 and 25 percent of our service wasn’t on the road," Cramer said. "There will be some trips that are missed."

Making matters even more complicated is a worker shortage that SMART, like many companies, has been impacted from.

"Those 80 open positions have been an issue even since before Covid," he added. "We actually have a $3,500 hiring and retention bonus in place right now. We have got a referral bonus in place, we have on-the-spot interviews."

SMART is in the process of coming up with other possible solutions. But they are asking passengers to be informed before going to a bus stop because route changes could happen daily as the omicron variant keeps drivers away from their duties.

"We’re asking people to plan ahead and keep an eye on the status of their trip on the app or call into customer information,"

"I catch the bus to work," Jones said. "Thank God I don’t catch it home."

Diedra Jones waits for her SMART bus to arrive as staffing shortages have wreaked havoc with routes in Metro Detroit.

More Information: 

Call the SMART Customer Care Department to talk with a representative at (866) 962-5515.

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