They are not rolling on the Rock.
Staten Island buses are canceled more frequently than those in any other district, even as bus service approaches pre-pandemic norms in the city’s other districts.
According to the MTA’s own Bus Performance Dashboard, Staten Island has the lowest “Service Provided” rate in the city, a metric that measures how many buses actually run during peak hours. The other four counties combined for a 97 percent on the metric in April, the wheels on buses on Staten Island only went round and round 92 percent of the time. It is something that bus users have absolutely noticed when trying to get around the city.
“Oh, they get canceled all the time,” Kayla, a Staten Island resident waiting for the S40 at the ferry terminal, told Streetsblog. “Google Maps will suddenly switch three times on my phone.”
In addition to the MTA losing bus drivers to death or retirement during the pandemic, service delivery has taken a hit as employees have gotten sick during the various waves of variant coronaviruses since the original virus swept through the city. The 2021 Delta Wave meant that as the hot vax summer turned and the vibes died down, the percentage of scheduled buses on Shaolin shores dropped from 93 percent in March to just 88 percent in September. Bus service returned to 90 percent in November, but reached only 87 percent in January 2022.
In the remaining counties, service delivery dropped from 96% in March 2021 to a low of 93% in September, before bottoming out at 92% in January.
Employees getting sick is a bigger problem in Staten Island than in other counties, and the MTA says the agency is dealing with higher than pre-Covid levels of unscheduled absences among county bus drivers.
Like many transit agencies, the MTA has had to deal with labor shortages during the pandemic, some self-inflicted and some not. The agency has lost 174 employees to Covid, with many other employees retiring during the pandemic. A hiring freeze prevented the agency from immediately replacing the employees it had lost, to the point that last May the agency had a shortfall of nearly 400 drivers.
When the driver shortage was identified last spring, the metric for service delivered citywide was 95.1% in April 2021, compared to 97% in April 2019. But dividing the number for the entire city by county, last year’s driver shortage made bus service on Staten Island harder In the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, service delivery hit 95 percent, while on Staten Island it hit just 92 percent.
Before the pandemic, Staten Island buses showed up for their scheduled arrival times at the same rate as buses in the rest of the city, approximately 97-98 percent from January 2020 to March 2020.
The MTA is still reeling from a bus operator shortage and has worked to address it by increasing the number of trainers and doubling the number of class sizes of prospective drivers, according to agency spokesman Sean Butler. It’s an effort that agency President and CEO Janno Lieber says will see the workforce return to pre-Covid levels by the end of the summer.
“We are confident that the hiring of bus operators that we have been doing is paying off, and we believe that by the end of the summer we will be in good shape,” Lieber said Tuesday.
Service delivery can be affected by more than just driver shortages, with external factors like traffic conditions or weather events wiping scheduled buses off the map. But the MTA has also told frustrated commuters that a driver shortage was ruining their commutes.
“Three S40 trips were not flown due to crew shortages affected by Covid-19,” an MTA customer service representative tweeted to a passenger in January who said he missed work after waiting an hour for an S40 or S90 that never came. The agency had to say the same thing to an angry cyclist. in another case in January.
We apologize for what happened. Three S40 voyages were not flown due to crew shortages affected by covid-19.
You may have missed the S40 and S90 which left at 8am ^JP
— NYCT bus. Wear a mask. (@NYCTBus) January 11, 2022
The canceled buses are the talk of The Rock, with would-be passengers complaining of getting in trouble for being late for university classes, while others said they had given up public transportation altogether.
“The bus schedule at night is everywhere,” said Brandon Grada, as he waited for an S46 on Thursday. “I try to take an Uber home now after work.”
— Additional reporting by Noah Martz